The Bulls hung tough with West Virginia in their inaugural Big East game before dropping a 57-53 decision. Three days later, they stayed with Syracuse the entire way and mounted a furious comeback late in the second half but again dropped a 63-57 decision.
South Florida has been able to force its opponents into a slow, grinding tempo that minimizes possessions and shots at the basket. That chess game gives the Bulls the best chance of winning since they lack the depth to get into running matches with its opponents.
Coach Robert McCullum has said that he enjoys the challenge of matching wits with opposing coaches and systems. He'll get that chance all season with his undermanned group.
Notes and Quotes:
--The Bulls can't take care of the ball. They are averaging 21 turnovers per game this season, and their Big East opponents are capitalizing. After turning the ball over 21 times against West Virginia on Thursday, the Bulls committed 22 Sunday night against Syracuse.
The Bulls (6-9, 0-2 Big East) are all to blame. Five players had three or more turnovers on Sunday night.
If there were ever a time to fix the problem, it's now. The Bulls have six days off before playing St. John's on Saturday. The Bulls play St. John's, Georgetown and Seton Hall the next three games before facing Villanova.
The team's first Big East win could come against St. John's, but it needs to take care of the ball.
--The Bulls led, 11-8, after the first eight minutes of Sunday night's game at Syracuse. It would be their largest lead of the game.
Trailing by three, the Orange called a timeout with 11:21 left in the first half and proceeded to go on a 20-2 run to take a 28-13 lead. The Bulls trailed 31-20 at the half.
The Bulls rallied to close the deficit to six with less than a minute left in the game, but it was too late. Syracuse won 63-57.
The Bulls were outrebounded by eight. Syracuse had 16 steals, the Bulls 8.
--Guard Chris Capko is in a funk. After suffering a head injury Dec. 30, Capko played 36 minutes Thursday night but scored only one point. Sunday, Capko played 38 minutes but was held scoreless.
--In somewhat of a rare occasion for the Bulls, nobody played 40 minutes against Syracuse. Of course, four starters played 38 minutes or more, with reserve McHugh Mattis playing 31.
--South Florida is hindering its chances at winning by failing to value the basketball. It committed 21 turnovers against West Virginia, and the same amount against Syracuse.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"The beauty of a conference -- it's certainly true with the Big East Conference -- and as a coach the thing I really enjoy is getting to prepare for a different style of play. I enjoy matching wits, finding a way to attack West Virginia's 1-3-1 zone and then how to attack Syracuse's 2-3 zone." -- Coach Robert McCullum, in the Tampa Tribune.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Chris Capko, G James Holmes, F Melvin Buckley, F Melvyn Richardson, C Solomon Jones. Key Sub -- G/F McHugh
West Virginia 57, South Florida 53
Syracuse 63, South Florida 57
vs. St. John's, Saturday, Jan. 14
at Georgetown, Tuesday, Jan. 17
at Seton Hall, Friday, Jan. 20
KEYS: All three of these games are winnable, since none of them has shown the ability to put up the kind of offensive numbers that would dwarf the Bulls totals. But if it doesn't cut down on the turnovers, it can't beat anyone in the league.
--G Chris Capko may not be on scholarship, but he's sure playing like he knows he's one of the keys to South Florida's ability to field a competitive team. He suffered a concussion against UAB on Dec. 30 but came back to play 36 minutes against West Virginia and 38 against Syracuse.
--G James Holmes paced the Bulls with 23 points against Syracuse. He made five of his eight three-point attempts, while his teammates were going 0-for-7.