CINCINNATI — All season, 3-point shots have been USF's weakness.
Sunday afternoon was no different.
Against the Bearcats, USF made just 1 of 6 3-pointers before halftime and didn't attempt another for the first 15 minutes of the second half.
But down just 42-41 with five minutes to play, USF reverted back to shooting — and missing — 3s. The Bulls shot 1-of-7 down the stretch, with five of those missed shots 3-pointers, as Cincinnati pulled ahead to seal the 50-45 win.
"We went brain-dead," USF coach Stan Heath said. "We took the 3s and we probably shouldn't have. A couple of those, the clock was winding down, and so we just got stuck with that shot. It's something we haven't been very good at that this year (26.2 percent entering Sunday's game) and we know it."
During a quick, low-scoring first half, the teams shot a combined 33 percent from the field. Both teams struggled to make open shots and missed easy layups as Cincinnati (21-2, 10-0 American) went into halftime with a 24-18 lead.
The Bulls (11-11, 2-7) found their touch in the paint after halftime, making seven of their first 10 shots to take a 27-26 lead. The teams continued to trade leads for much of the half until the Bearcats zone forced USF to shoot from beyond the arc.
The Bulls' 18-point first half and 45 total points were both season lows. Likewise, Cincinnati's 50 points were the fewest USF has allowed all season, 21 points below the Bearcats' average.
"They're a great defensive team and we have a stamp of being a good defensive team, so we brought that to this game and it obviously showed in the first half," Bulls forward Victor Rudd said. "It was a fight the whole game and I enjoyed playing in it."
Chris Perry led USF with 13 points and Rudd added 11. Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick led all scorers with 18 points.
The Bulls have lost seven of their past nine games, with five of those against ranked teams.
But even with the slump, the close loss gave the Bulls some needed confidence.
"I knew we could beat this team," Perry said. "I know that, definitely. We all played good as a team. We just kind of messed up at the very end."