Bulls try to carry momentum into rematch with Bearcats

The last time USF played No. 13 Cincinnati, the Bulls kept close with the Bearcats, but lost 61-54.

At that time, Cincinnati was on a 10-game winning streak. Since then, USF lost by a combined 61 points to No. 12 Louisville and No. 22 Memphis, before grabbing a gritty 78-71 win over SMU on Tuesday night.

USF’s upbeat approach brought to the floor Tuesday, following a one-day gap between last Sunday’s loss to Memphis and victory over SMU, is something USF coach Stan Heath hopes to carry into Cincinnati this Sunday.

“I think we can really build off this,” Heath said. “We were embarrassed the last time we were here, let’s face it. … I was glad to see the guys had some pride playing at home. We beat a very good team (Tuesday) and we need to build off of it.”

However, that should prove to be a tough task.

Since the Bulls and Bearcats last meeting on Jan. 18, Cincinnati (19-2, 8-0) has extended its winning streak to 12 games after victories over UCF and Temple.

While USF (11-10, 2-6) waits out a five-day gap between games, Louisville and Cincinnati will square off on ESPN at 7 p.m. today, when Cincinnati tries to push its winning streak to 13.

As Cincinnati seems to have mastered the art of consistency, USF has struggled to string consecutive wins together without injured junior point guard Anthony Collins, but senior forward Victor Rudd thinks the Bulls are still capable of playing well consistently.

“In the midst of our recent losses we can see spurts of us being good,” Rudd said. “We’ve just got to play like that all the time. We’ve got some games coming up that we can win and we have to keep playing like this.”

In the winning game against SMU, three Bulls -Rudd, freshman forward Chris Perry and junior guard Corey Allen Jr. – scored 15-plus points each and showed the Mustangs a glimpse of what they’re capable of.

Heath said it’s important to have that level of production from three players while Collins is out.

“We were 8-2 at one point and we did have Collins then, but Allen and Perry were much more productive during that time,” Heath said. “But since conference play started, we haven’t had the same production out of those guys. When they do produce, it makes a huge difference.”

In addition to a three-headed scoring attack, USF made each of the last 15 free throws of the game, which provided some separation from SMU in the seven-point difference of the final score.

Heath said it was one of USF’s “best execution days” this season, where they consistently made the extra pass to get the best shot.

“This is something we can point to and say, ‘This is how we did it’,” Heath said. “There’s no reason they can’t buy in and do it again.”

Tip off with the Bearcats in Cincinnati is set for Sunday at noon.