Basketball: USF Bulls lose to Western Michigan

TAMPA — Stan Heath makes rebounding a priority, so it's all the more frustrating to see the way his undersized teams have struggled on the boards in a disappointing 2-2 start.

On Sunday, the Bulls were outrebounded 39-26 by Western Michigan — somehow getting just two offensive rebounds off 29 missed field goals — and hit just 23 percent of their shots in the second half, taking a 58-53 loss in the Sun Dome to finish the USF Invitational.

"I don't like getting outrebounded," Heath said. "If there's one thing that's a staple of how I feel you need to play, it's that rebounding needs to be a strength. We need to outrebound the other team. When that happens to us, I know that's a problem."

Point guard Anthony Collins set a career high with 12 assists (USF had only 17 field goals), and the Bulls got their scoring from seniors Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (14 points) and Shaun Noriega (16), but each went just 4-of-11 from the field. Shots didn't fall down the stretch as USF missed all four attempts in the final minute.

"In the second half, we just could not find the basket," Heath said. "We had good looks, we had open 3s, layups around the rim and they didn't go down. We need to finish those plays. … We have to become a better team at finishing. We were very good in the past of the last 2-3 minutes when it's a one-point game."

USF lost two home games last season but has matched that in the first nine days this season, unable to find the same home magic in the renovated Sun Dome. Sunday's win improved Western Michigan to 4-1 and gave veteran coach Steve Hawkins his 300th career victory.

"When I started, I was skinny and had hair. That's what this thing will do to you," Hawkins said.

USF led 35-27 late in the first half, but Western Michigan ended the half on a 7-1 run, then opened the second on a 7-2 spurt for a 43-38 lead. The Bulls did lead after that — Noriega scored six in a row to go up 46-45 — but USF had just five points in the final eight minutes.

Basketball: USF Bulls lose to Western Michigan 11/18/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 18, 2012 9:30pm]

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