STILLWATER, Okla. — USF's defense was impressive, holding a ranked and likely NCAA Tournament-bound opponent to its fewest points of the season.
But the Bulls offense failed to make the defensive performance matter.
Poor shooting never allowed USF to get into a rhythm as it lost 61-49 at No. 23 Oklahoma State on Wednesday night.
The Bulls (5-3) shot 34 percent, their worst this season. The strong defensive effort allowed them to stay within one possession of the Cowboys for most of the game, but the home team used an 18-4 run midway through the second half to put victory out of reach.
The game marked the first time USF had used the same starting lineup more than once.
"We just couldn't make shots," USF coach Stan Heath said. "I think they are good defensively, but I thought we had some really good looks that just didn't go down. We didn't keep pace."
Forward Victor Rudd led the Bulls with 14 points and added six rebounds, but the point guards delivered the key matchup of the game.
Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart, projected by some as an NBA lottery pick, and USF's Anthony Collins went back-and-forth making plays throughout the night. Smart finished with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Collins scored 12 to go with four assists and four steals.
"If I weren't coaching the game, I would have had a blast watching (Collins) and Smart go at each other," Heath said. "That was a great matchup. I thought they jammed the lane up, but Collins keeps coming at you. After a while, he did get in there and make some things happen."
Lack of size was an issue for the Bulls. The Cowboys outrebounded them 41-28, and Heath said he would likely have to rotate who starts at center the rest of the season to find a fit.
Attacking inside on offense is a point of emphasis for USF, something Rudd said he is striving to do more.
"We've got to learn to get to the basket more," Rudd said. "Right now we have only one or two guys driving to the basket.
"Oklahoma State is a good team, and I think we did well. We know we could have beat them, but things happen."