You read how I took a negative approach to the USF men’s basketball team’s WIN against Stetson last week, so now I’ll tell you why I’m feeling okay about the Bulls 70-53 LOSS to Indiana on Sunday night.
In the Bulls first-ever trip to a cathedral of college basketball, Assembly Hall, USF came out firing and shot 44% from the field in the first half while knocking down 57% (4/7) of their shots from the three-point line.
Graduate transfer Payton Banks matched his season high with 18 points, 15 of those coming in the opening half and the Bulls led 34-33 at halftime.
The USF men’s basketball team roped you in for a little bit, no? It was intriguing to watch, even if it was just for the first 20 minutes.
Because then the second half happened. Indiana outscored USF 37-19 after halftime and kept the Bulls scoreless for the final 3:11 in the game. The Hoosiers went on a 19-5 run to push their lead to 54-44 with 8:29 remaining and pretty much put the game out of reach. The Bulls didn’t trail by less than six the rest of the way.
Redshirt junior Malik Martin finished in double figures for the first time during his tenure at USF with 11 points and shot 5-for-7 from the field. Martin posted at least five rebounds for the second time this season.
Redshirt sophomore Tulio Da Silva finished with eight points and knocked down a three-pointer to spark a very early 5-2 USF run in the second half, but the Bulls couldn’t muster any momentum.
The Bulls bench is simply not deep enough as they can only go six or seven players deep in games and frankly, the talent barrier alone was enough to get Indiana over the hump down the stretch.
USF’s biggest lead in the game was just four points with 18:29 remaining, so you never really felt like the Bulls would actually pull off this upset... but you did see signs of life. With the roster turnover, a new coach, new system, grad transfers feeling out now teammates, this will take time. But Sunday night wasn’t a total disaster, and that’s a step in the right direction.
For what it’s worth, USF has not defeated a Big Ten team since December 1999 when the Bulls beat Wisconsin (ed. note: I was there. I’M SO OLD.) USF hasn’t beaten a team from a “Power Five” (if we can use that in a basketball context) conference since 2013 when they knocked off Alabama.
So, plenty of work to be done.
USF continues play in the Hoosier Tip-Off Classic with a game against Howard this Wednesday night at the Sun Dome.