After opening the season with five straight wins at Corbett Stadium, USF fell to No. 11 FIU 2-1 Tuesday night for its second straight home loss.
Playing in front of 694 in attendance, the Bulls conceded a goal in the 22nd minute and entered the half down a goal.
The Bulls nearly answered with a shot in the 39th minute that rang off the crossbar and went straight down, nearly crossing the endline for a goal.
In the second half, despite the Bulls dominating in possessions and shots, the Panthers tapped a goal past USF goalkeeper Harrison Devenish-Meares in their first shot of the period in the game’s 63rd minute. The goal gave FIU, the highest scoring team in the nation, a 2-0 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Bulls added a goal via a penalty kick by Bradley Farias in the 75th minute, but failed to put a finishing touch on another goal despite numerous quality chances and taking nine shots in the second half.
“Well, we put ourselves in a hole,” USF coach Bob Butehorn said. “That’s a good team and they are playing really well so their confidence is high. But still, the amount of chances that we still get and opportunities to finish off a game and team’s sit in on us.”
The Panthers (9-0-3) haven’t lost a game all season, but their win over USF was their second best of the season in terms of Rating Percentage Index (RPI).
The Bulls have played four top-25 programs (losing three, tying one) this season and have an RPI of 32 due to their strength of schedule and ability to win games they’ve been favored to.
The Bulls only 2017 loss against an unranked opponent was Friday to UConn (7-4-2, 4-0-0), which broke the tie between the Bulls and Huskies atop the AAC standings — giving UConn sole possession of first place.
Next up for USF is a road match against Memphis (3-5-2, 1-2-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
For USF to make its third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, it’ll need more maturity and production from its players.
“I threw a challenge to them,” Butehorn said. “The thing that bothers me is that this group has to understand what it takes to win a championship. It takes every day, everybody committed to things. It’s tough with this group. We just show our immaturity. Heading into Memphis, we have to be sharp.”