Maybe it was Thursday’s turkey slowing down the Bulls, but whatever the case may have been, it was clear the USF’s men’s basketball team was not playing up to par over the Thanksgiving break.
USF hosted Detroit for the first time in school history Saturday, suffering its second straight loss of the season to the Titans after being blown out at home against No. 5 Oklahoma State last Monday.
“It’s a very disappointing loss for us,” coach Stan Heath said. “I definitely feel like it’s a game we should have won.”
The season was looking up for a Bulls team that before losing to one of the top teams in the nation started 4-0 for the first time since 2006.
The Bulls, with improved size on the court from last season with added freshmen 6-foot-10 John Egbunu and 6-foot-8 Chris Perry were doing something better than last year’s team — scoring.
Averaging nearly 59 points last season, USF bumped it up to 75 heading into the Detroit matchup where that average took a hit, losing 65-60 and snapping a two-game losing streak for Detroit, marking a season low in scoring for the Bulls.
Egbunu and Perry proved to be key players for USF, even in the loss to Oklahoma State where the two freshmen combined for 25 points and 12 rebounds. They combined for 10 points and six rebounds against the Titans.
Another factor USF boasted heading into Saturday was depth on the court.
After Toarlyn Fitzpatrick graduated last season, redshirt senior Victor Rudd was expected to carry a heavy load this season, especially with junior point guard Anthony Collins being out earlier this season with a knee injury.
But apart from USF’s season opener in which Rudd put up 23 points, USF has had three or more players score into double figures every game since.
Through Detroit’s defense, Rudd scored 11 points, second to Martino Brock’s 16. No one else could seem to find the basket as much.
What really hurt USF in a game decided by five points were free throws. After shooting 4-of-4 from the line in the first half, the Bulls went 11-of-19 after halftime and sent Detroit to the line a total of 28 times.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Heath said. “Poor rebounding, poor shooting and a lot of fouls. That’s a bad recipe.”
Though the outcome shows the Bulls in a slump over this two-game stretch, that didn’t seem to be the case from the tipoff where USF finished the first half with a 31-23 lead.
The Bulls opened up the game with multiple runs, starting with an 8-0 run, extending it to a 12-5 run before Detroit took its first lead, 17-16, with 6:56 remaining until halftime. From there, the teams traded blows before USF went on an 11-0 run and sustained the lead heading into the locker rooms.
The second half took on a different storyline.
The Titans came out of halftime with a 12-2 run, and from there the Bulls would go on to play catch-up.
Detroit extended its lead to as much as six points throughout the second half, which was just enough to come away with its first regular season win over a BCS team since 1997.
“I thought for the first four minutes of the second half our energy was not right, we were flat,” Heath said. “They got momentum going, and they never seemed to let up and we never seemed to recover.”
USF will look to dig itself out from the two-game slump Wednesday on the road at George Mason at 7 p.m.
“We’ve got to regroup. I think this team can turn the corner,” Heath said. “It’s November, and I think most teams around the country face a loss that just kind of stings you. Between the last two games, you have one that’s a powerhouse that got us pretty good and the other team that has been struggling a little bit, and they got us too. If that doesn’t send a message, I don’t know what does.”