TAMPA ― After a series of close calls against quality opposition in league play, USF arrived Saturday night at the Yuengling Center trying to find that elusive breakthrough triumph.
It struggled to even find a rhythm.
On a physical, foul-infested night, the Bulls (12-6, 2-4) couldn’t muster any offensive consistency in a 69-60 loss to No. 21 Houston before the season’s largest home audience (5,563).
USF, loser of three in a row, was seeking its first victory against a ranked club in seven years.
“I thought we did some good things,” Bulls coach Brian Gregory said, “but not good enough to beat a team like that.”
The teams combined for 62 fouls and 76 free throws, completely stifling the game’s flow. The foul total for the Cougars (33) and Bulls (29) were season-highs for both teams.
Only six fast-break points were scored.
“Aesthetically, it wasn’t a very good game for anybody to watch," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “I felt bad that people had to watch that.”
Equally stifled was Bulls point guard Laquincy Rideau, whose eight points were well below his average in conference play (18.8). Consistently doubled at the first hint of dribble penetration, the Bulls' top scorer attempted only two field goals in the first 20 minutes.
With Rideau neutralized, USF went more than seven minutes without a field goal in the first half as the Cougars (18-1, 5-1) took a 35-25 lead at intermission. A 12-0 Bulls run cut their deficit to 47-43 with 10:38 to play, but they managed only one field goal over the next five minutes.
For the game, USF shot only 31.8 percent (14-for-44) and finished with 19 turnovers. Sophomore David Collins led the Bulls with 23 points. Redshirt freshman Alexis Yetna added 12 points and seven rebounds before fouling out.
“We play a physical brand of basketball, they play a very physical brand of basketball,” Gregory said.
“There are some teams, and we’re one of 'em when we face another one like us, some games are gonna be more of a rock fight than a basketball game.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.