That’s how long it had been since USF men’s basketball (7-6, 3-4 AAC) last took the floor before its 82-65 loss to No. 8 Houston (17-2, 10-2 AAC) on Wednesday night.
The Bulls had not played a game since Jan. 9 due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the program, so when game time rolled around Wednesday, they seemed excited to finally get back on the floor.
“They were fired up, they were ready to go,” coach Brian Gregory said of the players’ eagerness to get back on the court. “It’s been a long time since we played a game, so they were fired [up] and they did a lot of good things that we can build on from today.”
Returning to action against one of the premier teams in the country was a rude awakening for the team as the Bulls struggled to contain Houston’s red-hot offense for much of the night.
The Cougars showed exactly why they’re the top scoring team in the AAC. Coach Kelvin Sampson’s team shot 53% percent from the field and were led by dynamic scorer Quentin Grimes, who finished with 29 points, and DeJon Jarreau, who finished with 17.
“What they have is two guys on the court in [Marcus] Sasser and Grimes that can score 25 plus points, so that makes them dangerous on offense,” Gregory said. “And those two guys play with a green light, their shooting percentages are not what you would call very good. But they’re volume shooters and they get enough of them, and they can get enough of them to get it going and turn a six-point game, like today, and all of a sudden it’s an 18-point game.”
USF hung around with Houston in the first half, putting up 35 during the opening 20 minutes, before heading into the locker room down eight.
It was a different story in the second half, however, as the Cougars began to really pour it on from both ends of the floor. Houston went on to score 39 points while holding the Bulls to below 40% shooting from the field and forcing eight of USF’s 15 turnovers.
There’s no question about it, that is a team that can make it to the Final Four and compete for a national championship,” Gregory said. “Because they are unique in what they do and they do it extremely well night in and night out.”
The Bulls were never able to get into a rhythm with any of the lineups that they put on the floor. The monthlong layoff forced Gregory to make substitutions early and often to give his starters a rest.
“Some guys got to play significant minutes who maybe haven’t played as much and we need them to perform a little better,” Gregory said. “There were times where we were not as good at initiating the offense as we need to be.”
Senior guard David Collins led the way for the Bulls with 18 points on an efficient 6-of-9 shooting, though much of his scoring came in the second half when the game was out of reach. Junior center Michael Durr joined Collins in double figures finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Outside of Collins and Durr, the rest of the USF starters were shut down by the Cougars’ gritty defense. Junior forward Alexis Yetna, senior forward Justin Brown and freshman guard Caleb Murphy combined for just 14 points.
The Bulls had seven games postponed during the hiatus, and while some of them are likely to be rescheduled, Gregory is not counting on getting all seven games back.
“I’m just not sure that’s humanly possible,” Gregory said of rescheduling all the games. “I think leagues around the country who have postponed games are under the assumption that you’ll try to get as many games as you can but it’s not going to be a full schedule because not only is it probably not the safest and healthiest for the guys, these guys are also in school.”
Next up for USF is a Sunday matchup against Tulane at home.
The game against the Green Wave will be televised on ESPNU and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.