South Florida men’s basketball fell 85-69 to Cincinnati on Wednesday night in the Yuengling Center, marking their largest losing deficit in conference play.
The Bulls (8-11, 1-5 AAC) broke a four-game losing streak after snagging their first conference win over East Carolina on Sunday. The narrative of defeat resumed with poor guarding and ball protection while facing the Bearcats (14-6, 5-3 AAC).
USF began the first period with a shot outside the arc by fifth-year forward Keyshawn Bryant, giving the Bulls their first lead 3-2. Bryant, fifth-year guard Tyler Harris and sophomore forward Sam Hines Jr. then pushed South Florida ahead 11-9.
However, their lead didn’t last long.
Cincinnati went ahead 15-13 after shooting six points and holding USF to stay scoreless for two minutes and 17 seconds. The Bearcats maintained their dominance and stayed ahead by double-digits for the remainder of the game.
Coach Brian Gregory said Cincinnati is a dangerous team and the Bulls’ slow defense made it easy for them to score comfortably throughout their entire time on the court.
“They were able to get into lanes, either on straight drives or off the ball-screen action,” Gregory said. “They had 17 assists and only four turnovers, so that’s a clear indication of our lack of activity on defense.”
A large chunk of points were also lost from turning over the ball. South Florida gave up 13 points from 10 turnovers.
Wednesday’s game marked USF’s fifth conference defeat. With its current defense, the outcome of its next matchup doesn’t look too promising. Cincinnati’s mere four turnovers were the fewest allowed by the Bulls this season.
South Florida will face its biggest rival, Central Florida, at home on Saturday. The Knights (13-5, 4-2 AAC) are currently ranked No. 44 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings and are ranked No. 31 in the country in scoring defense.
Meanwhile, USF sits at a No. 158 NET ranking and cannot afford to let a poor defense steal a conference win like it did against the Bearcats.
Gregory said he gives credit to Cincinnati for its discipline and focus, but the Bulls’ execution on defense is a concern as they continue through conference play.
“Scoring 69 points should put us in a position to bring that game down to the wire,” Gregory said. “But our defense wasn’t as good as it needed to be.”
USF will face UCF in the Yuengling Center at noon on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU, 102.5 HD-2 and Bulls Unlimited