This month, USF (7-11, 1-4) has shown it can compete with some of the best. The problem has been the Bulls’ inability to sustain their energy for the full 40 minutes.
The Bulls have dropped three of four games in 2015, but not without showing glimpses of their potential.
They led for the majority of the first half in games against defending national champion UConn and, most recently, conference-leading Tulsa (12-5, 5-0).
USF also nearly came from behind to beat Tulane in the closing minutes, before losing in overtime.
While coach Orlando Antigua said there’s no excuse for the lack of consistency, he said the players’ youth plays a factor.
“That’s the dilemma you have with a young team, and we hate to keep going back to that, but that’s what it is,” Antigua said after falling 75-58 to Tulsa on Sunday.
“We’re taking strides,” he said. “Obviously we’d like to get those strides a lot quicker, but it’s not about me or the staff. It’s about those players. As long as they’re growing and they’re learning, and we continue to teach them, they’ll get better.”
As the second youngest team in NCAA Division I basketball, the Bulls have shown promise.
Freshman Ruben Guerrero has continued to strengthen his impact in the post. The center has averaged 6.25 rebounds over the last four games. He was also one of two Bulls to score in double figures against Tulsa, along with junior transfer Nehemias Morillo.
Morillo tied his career high with 15 points and six rebounds coming off the bench.
Junior transfer Jaleel Cousins, who averaged 2.4 points coming into the game, also tied his career-high with nine points. The center made five of his six free throws and grabbed three rebounds in 14 minutes.
“I thought Jaleel put an imprint on the game when he was being physical, being alert,” Antigua said. “He was being active, he got to the free-throw line and he made them. He’s been practicing a lot of free throws. Hopefully he can take another step and continue to improve.”
USF’s lone senior, Corey Allen Jr., scored two points in 23 minutes against Tulsa. Prior to the game, he averaged 15.5 points per game. He is nursing a calf muscle strain.
“He keeps trying and he keeps pushing, which we appreciate,” Antigua said. “He’s such a fighter, and he has such a big heart.”
Bo Zeigler is also battling an injury. The redshirt freshman was 17-of-26 from the floor in the four previous games, but did not play against Tulsa due to a right knee injury.
The Bulls play Temple (12-7, 3-3) in Philadelphia on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.