One word. Turnovers.
The Bulls had 11 of them in the first half … which is two more than they had against ECU in Saturday’s win. USF was also being outscored in the paint 14-4 by Cincinnati, and at one point were only shooting 26 percent from the field.
But besides all of that, the first half wasn’t COMPLETELY hideous …
The Bearcats opened scoring with a three in the first minute and junior guard Geno Thorpe hit two free throws to get the Bulls on the board. Holston tied it up with a three, but Cincinnati responded with a trey of its own for an 8-5 lead. Then they proceeded to hold USF scoreless for three and a half minutes on a 7-0 run, ha. Sophomore forward Luis Santos ended the drought with two free throws, and a three by freshman forward Malik Fitts cut the lead to three (13-10) with 11:40 to play.
“We were really prepared for everything,” Thorpe said. “The full court press, the 3-2 zone matchup that they do. They were a good ball club, so I give a lot of credit to them.”
At the eight-minute mark, a fast break layup by freshman forward Tulio Da Silva got the Bulls within two! Not gonna lie, things seemed to be looking up. But the Bearcats, of course, responded with a 9-0 run to take a 14-25 lead before Da Silva was back at it again and ended the scoring drought with an open jumper.
The Bulls were only down 30-22 at the end of the half. Which could have been a LOT worse. Though USF had pretty much just gotten lucky that Cincinnati had only hit 1-of-8 before Bearcats’ Gary Clark (who, by the way, finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds lol) connected at the buzzer. Holston had a team-high 7 points at the half.
“We liked the tempo that we had in the first half,” Thorpe said. “You know, we didn’t really do a good job of sustaining that.”
USF opened with … what do ya know? … a turnover. And Cincinnati opened with a 8-0 run LOL. The Bearcats held the Bulls scoreless for the first five minutes of play before Santos layed it in. USF continued to do USF things and didn’t score for three more minutes until Fitts drew the and-one on an up-and-under layup. He missed the free throw.
“We had a lot of open looks that we didn’t knock down, that we usually knock down,” Thorpe said.
At the under-12 timeout, the Bulls had shot just 2-of-15 to rack up a 43-26 deficit. Guerrero fouled out with 8:04 to play, and by the time there were only three minutes left in the game, Cincinnati reached a 20-point lead ... which was easy to believe the Bulls wouldn’t come back from because you know they beat us by OVER FORTY POINTS DURING THE LAST MATCHUP. The Bulls ended on a 12-2 run — which you have to admit shows heart when you’re down by 20 to a Top 20 team — but couldn’t rally and fell short to the Bearcats 68-54.
“I thought they made some nice adjustments into the second half,” Bartow said. “They picked us apart a little bit.”
The Bulls finished shooting 37 percent from the field and had 21 turnovers. Thorpe had a team-high 19 points.
“We out rebounded them by three. That’s encouraging!” Bartow said. “And there’s just no quit in us.”
The Bulls will head to Tulane on Saturday for a 2:00 p.m. tipoff.