The USF men’s basketball team almost ended its month-long losing streak, but Cincinnati was able to hold off the Bulls for their ninth consecutive loss Saturday night.
The Bulls (7-17, 1-10) trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, but nearly completed a comeback in the second before losing 63-58 at Fifth Third Arena.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys,” coach Orlando Antigua said. “They battled after going down, playing on the road … We shot the ball well in the second half. Now we just have to put a full game together.”
The Bulls shot 32 percent in the first half before making a strong comeback and improving their shooting to 60 percent in the second. USF held Cincinnati (17-6, 8-3) to 37 percent shooting.
The Bulls used a 19-6 run to get ahead after intermission. Freshman guard Troy Holston Jr. ignited the run with consecutive 3-pointers, and junior center Jaleel Cousins punctuated the turnaround with a dunk, putting the Bulls up 41-37 with just under 11 to play.
The Bearcats regained the lead with back-to-back 3-pointers, but the Bulls kept the game within four points until the final minute.
With 41 seconds remaining, Cincinnati took a seven-point lead with a free throw and a layup.
The Bulls came within four points twice thereafter, but couldn’t finish.
USF was able to make it a close game even with a depleted lineup. Sophomore forward Chris Perry missed his fourth game because of health issues, and Nehemias Morillo sat out because of illness. The junior guard averaged nearly 16 points in the four games prior.
Senior guard Corey Allen Jr. scored 18 points and Holston finished with a career-high 16. Holston, who averaged 4.3 points coming into the matchup, shot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
“What I told the guys was how proud I was of them for competing,” Antigua said. “No one pouted or made excuses. Next man steps up, and we have to go out and do a job. That’s what we had, and that’s what we rolled with. They gave us a valiant effort.”
USF looks to snap its losing streak against UCF (9-13, 2-9) in Orlando on Wednesday at 7 p.m.