Another late collapse for the Bulls against Louisville on Sunday afternoon marked the 10th time USF has given up a second- half lead to lose this season.
With more tough competition ahead, coach Stan Heath said he is still searching for a leader to emerge and guide his team in crunch time.
“You see us right now and we’re close, we get to the last three or four minutes and we start having fatigue,” Heath said. “It’s just a combination of brand new guys out there, they’re inexperienced and they’re learning their way through the league.”
The Bulls (6-11, 0-4) face another tough conference opponent when they travel to face Cincinnati (15-1, 2-1) at Fifth Third Arena tonight at 7. USF has lost all six of its road games this season and looks to avoid a seven-game losing streak overall, which would be the longest in Stan Heath’s four years as coach at USF.
Cincinnati looks to bounce back after being handed its first loss of the season Sunday by seventh-ranked Villanova.
With just a single loss marring an otherwise perfect season, the Bearcats fell just one spot this week in the Associated Press (AP) Top 25 poll to No. 25.
Heath said he is hoping his guards will step up and lead the team against its formidable opponent.
“Our big guys have tried (to be leaders),” Heath said. “(Jarrid) Famous has tried, (Ron) Anderson Jr. has tried, and I think they’re doing a good job at what they do, but it’s just so important that when the ball is in your hands, a majority of the time as a guard, that you’re the guy who’s communicating and setting the tone.”
Point guard Anthony Crater had a career-high 10 assists against Louisville, but key turnovers and missed shot opportunities led to another Bulls collapse in an 86-77 loss. Yet, Heath said the team’s inability to finish games is the result of poor decision making, rather than physical strain.
“Fatigue isn’t necessarily always physical, a lot of time it’s mental,” he said. “You see a lot of mental breakdowns with turnovers and poor decisions and things like that. If you look a few years back, you could get some film of Chris Howard and Dominique Jones and you would see some of the same things.”
USF has struggled offensively this season, ranking last in the Big East and averaging 62.5 points per game. The offense faces a tough test in Cincinnati, which only allows 54.9 points per game, the lowest total in the conference. Cincinnati’s turnover margin also ranks best in the conference at plus-5.19 per game, while USF sits at the bottom averaging minus-5.53 turnovers per game.
The Bulls have yet to win a game in the Big East – a conference with seven teams in the AP Top 25, including four in the top 10. Nonetheless, Heath said his team is a “work in progress” and remains optimistic about its chances.
“We all want to speed up the process. I want it to happen today, I’m hoping it happens tomorrow, but that’s what we’re going through right now,” Heath said. “I’m proud of our guys. We’re playing against some really good basketball teams, and we’re doing some good things. We’re continuing to get better, and we’re going to turn this corner.”
The game will be aired on Bright House Networks.
The Bulls and Bearcats have split their six Big East head-to-head games 3-3 with the home team winning each contest.