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Bulls look to bounce back against DePaul

In each of their two road losses last week, the Bulls turned the ball over more than twice as many times as their opponents. Yet, despite suffering two more conference defeats, the inexperienced South Florida team will learn from its mistakes.

“We’re probably going to have some steps backwards to go forwards,” coach Stan Heath said. “If it doesn’t kill you it … makes you stronger, and that’s the message that we all need to know.”

The Bulls (7-14, 1-7) will have a chance to demonstrate what they’ve learned when they take the Sun Dome hardwood against the Blue Demons of DePaul (6-13, 0-7) at 9 p.m. USF has won its last four meetings with DePaul, and hopes to capitalize on an opportunity to pick up its second conference win.

“DePaul has some young players and they are very talented — we certainly can’t take anything for granted,” Heath said. “We want to do whatever we can to turn our season around.”

To do so, the Bulls will have to contain one of the Big East’s top freshman, forward Cleveland Melvin, who ranks third in the conference in scoring at 21 points per game. On the other side of the ball, the players are buying in to the emphasis on better decision making.

“A lot of times you’ll see in the game we lead in important statistical categories, like rebounding, but not the turnover category,” said forward Ron Anderson Jr. who finished with 10 rebounds against West Virginia.

“We need to treasure the basketball more,” guard Jawanza Poland said.

Sunday against the West Virginia Mountaineers, the Bulls shot just two percentage points worse than WVU, tied them in rebounding and shot better from the free throw line. But giving up the ball 10 more times than West Virginia allowed the Mountaineers to take 15 more shots than South Florida. Heath believes that statistic was the deciding factor.

“The main thing is those turnover margins,” he said. “You take care of the ball, you give yourself more possessions — it’s the game.”

The Blue Demons come into tonight’s game averaging three more forced turnovers than their opponents. DePaul, desperate to snap a seven-game Big East losing streak, is the only team between USF and last place in the conference.

The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.