Cleveland — Augustus Gilchrist made his return to the USF lineup Wednesday, but it wasn't enough.
Despite providing a second-half spark, the junior forward and the Bulls were unable to overcome 24 turnovers and fell 69-62 to Cleveland State.
And with the Big East portion of the schedule less than a week away, USF coach Stan Heath has some serious backcourt questions to answer.
"The key to our team is our guards," Heath said. "Right now, our guards are really struggling. I love my frontline, but we have to get better play out of our guards."
The Bulls' frontcourt kept them in the game, not only with Gilchrist's contributions and another big game from Jarrid Famous, but because of a 49-26 rebounding advantage. Famous led USF (6-7) with 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
But after scoring eight early in the second half, Famous disappeared as Cleveland State limited his touches.
"He just could never (get the ball)," Heath said. "We couldn't get the ball across halfcourt and get into our offense."
Gilchrist, playing his first game after sitting out three due to personal reasons, scored 12, all in the second half. He seemed to be somewhat out of rhythm with his teammates early but was closer to his usual self by the end.
Guards Norris Cole (27) and Jeremy Montgomery (21) combined to score 48 for the Vikings (13-1) out of the Horizon League. After a quiet first half because of foul trouble, Cole came to life in the second to score 25 with an array of circus layups and three-point shooting.
"I thought our guys made a decision in the second half that they were going to play harder," said Cleveland State coach Gary Waters, whose team committed only four turnovers. "We kept that pressure on, and that's what we needed to do. Plus, we finally started hitting some shots down the stretch."
For Heath, the key to the game was the turnovers.
"I've never seen a larger turnover difference (24-4) in my life," Heath said. "We're not strong with the ball right now. We need to go back to the drawing board."