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Bulls Drop to 0-2 in Conference Play with 70-56 Loss to Houston

Men’s basketball closes 2016 with - what else? - another loss.

NCAA Basketball: South Florida at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After tipoff it looked like we could have expected the Bulls to start off hot per usual, take a substantial lead into the locker room, and then probably lose it in the second half. Mmm, not exactly. After a toughly battled first half, the Bulls couldn’t stay winded in the second, and fell hard to the Houston Cougars 70-56.

“We wanted to beat Houston. We’re preparing to come out and compete with and beat teams,” head coach Orlando Antigua said. “We’ve shown that we have to be consistent in order to be able to to that and we’ve got to be able to play a full game. We’ve gotta defend and we’ve gotta challenge.”

USF put up six early points and held Houston scoreless for the first five minutes. The Bulls also made four of their first five from 3-point range. Two of those treys came from sophomore guard Troy Holston, who put up eight straight points with back-to-back threes and a jumper, helping the Bulls to an early 17-9 lead.

“We just competed the first half and showed that we can keep up with the team and possibly beat them,” Holston said.

Houston answered with seven first-half threes and used a late 15-4 run to lead 38-34 at halftime. The Bulls really couldn’t stop Houston junior guard Rob Gray, who seemed to get to the basket way too easily and finished with 17 first-half points on 7-of-9 shooting.

“Gotta give credit to Houston, they knocked down some key three-pointers,” freshman forward Malik Fitts said. “And Rob Gray, he did a really good job taking care of the ball and scoring the ball.”

The Cougars opened the second half shooting just 1 of 8, letting USF pull within 42-40. But then Gray hit another three and pretty much just sparked the Cougars’ fire. Over an 8 12 minute period, Houston went on a 16-1 run to grab an 18-point lead. Good times.

“We came out in the second half sluggish,” Holston said. “We should have come out harder in warm-ups. We’ve got to do a better job preparing for the second half, coming out each game.”

“What might have felt sluggish is not capitalizing off of some of the opportunities we had at the basket,” Antigua said. “I thought we missed opportunities offensively and we cant let that happen for us... we can’t let that affect what we’re doing on the defensive end.”

USF found itself in foul trouble early in the second half, and things just went downhill from there. They made no three-pointers in the second half and shot just 23%.

“Foul trouble and going those 7-8 minutes without being able to get a field goal… I thought there were some opportunities there that we didn’t capitalize on,” Antigua said.

On the bright side (if there even is one), three Bulls were in double figures – Holston (16pts), Fitts (12pts, 6rebs), and Da Silva (10pts, 5rebs). USF also cut down on their turnovers, giving it away 13 times. Stop me now if I’m trying too hard to turn this “really bad” result into just a “bad” result.

*stops self*

“Some of the things we did well, obviously we took care of the ball better than we have been,” Antigua said. “We talked about keeping things simple, securing everything with two hands.”

USF will travel to SMU on Saturday, Jan. 7 for a 5:00 tipoff.

“We’ve got a week coming up now before our next game and we’ve gotta stretch ourselves, we’ve gotta grow, we’ve gotta push,” Antigua said. “We’re going to try to take advantage of this week to try to get better quickly.”

Dare I positively hope for a cliche … new year, new Bulls? See y’all in 2017.