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Bulls let 13-point second-half lead slip away

It was a tale of two halves for USF men’s basketball Tuesday night at the Yuengling Center. 

After leading by six points at halftime and as many as 13 midway through the second half, the Bulls fell to Cincinnati 79-67.

A mid-second half 17-2 run by the Bearcats (19-10, 12-5), along with five turnovers in five minutes by USF (13-17, 6-11) ,completely erased the Bulls’ lead. 

Many of the points in that run came from Bearcats guard Keith Williams, starting in the absence of star guard Jarron Cumberland. Williams, who averaged 12.1 points coming into the game, erupted in the second half, scoring 21 of his 30 points in the game’s final 20 minutes. 

A disparity in shooting in the second half also hurt the Bulls. Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, but USF was only 9-of-26 in the second compared with Cincinnati at 16-of-25. 

“It wasn’t one thing that got us, they were able to get us in a couple of areas,” USF coach Brian Gregory said. “We had three or four shots at the rim that we didn’t finish, and they made some high-level offensive plays. Unfortunately, some of the things that we struggle with came into play again.”

Laquincy Rideau led the Bulls’ offense in the first half, scoring 14 of his 15 points and going 4-of-5 from 3-point range. In the second half, though, Rideau and the other two starting guards, Xavier Castaneda and David Collins, struggled. The Bearcats switched to a full-court press at the beginning of the half, forcing the trio to shoot for a combined 2-of-14. 

“Kudos to them. They showed up to play in the second half,” Castaneda said. “We weren’t flowing as well due to the pressure obviously.” 

The 3-point shot was also well defended in the second half by the Bearcats. After attempting a dozen 3-pointers and making half of them in the first half, the Bulls were unable to get many clean looks, only putting up seven in the second half, though USF made four of them. 

“We were driving the ball and we were just getting in too deep, so once you get it in deep, the only option you have is to shoot it,” Gregory said. “Earlier, once we were getting in the paint we were spraying the ball around. We got wide open shots.”

Next Up: SMU — Saturday, 7 p.m. at the Yuengling Center (TV: ESPN3, Radio: Bulls Unlimited)