USF pulled together their best defensive performance of the season, limiting Cincinnati, a team that averages 71.1 ppg, to only 50 points. Unfortunately, USF had difficulty on the other side of the ball, only scoring 45 points in the loss.
The first half held a lot of missed opportunities for the Bulls. Cincinnati was pretty woeful shooting three pointers (the Bulls were worse, but we'll get to that later). But seemingly every bricked three-point shot careened 15 to 20 feet away into the waiting hands of a Bearcat player. They got enough extra shots and extra free throws, combined with USF having a tough time breaking the Cincinnati 2-3 zone, to build a 24-18 halftime lead.
The first 13 minutes of the second half was a completely different story. USF figured out that if they pushed the ball after Cincinnati missed shots, and heck, even some made missed shots, that they could get some easier transition buckets before the zone could set. The Bulls had a series of layups, including a coast-to-coast layup by Victor Rudd.
With seven minutes to go USF led 41-38. At the #13 team in the country! Then Cinci's Sean Kilpatrick, who was sick coming into the game, willed the Bearcats to victory with 10 points down the stretch.
For an ugly game that featured pretty terrible shooting (USF 38.8%, Cinci 33.3%), and lots of back and forth play, there were relatively few turnovers (18 total) or fouls (22 combined).
Instead, we saw something that made connoisseurs of the 2011-2012 USF vintage smile: amazing straight up defense. John Egbunu had two blocks, including one in the first half that probably landed in Akron. But repeatedly the Bulls forced the Bearcats into bad shots or shots near the end of the shot clock, with great straight up defense, and quick rotations if a Cinci player found an opening. The Bearcats earned every point they got, which is all you can ask for from the Bulls defense.
But there was a few positive things to take from this game. Chris Perry is fast becoming a favorite here at Voodoo Five. Not only did he go 6-8 shooting and lead the team with 13 points and seven rebounds (tied with Egbunu), he hit an audacious 16-foot jumper in the second half to keep the Bulls. WE DIDN'T KNOW YOU HAD IT LIKE THAT CP!
Nine USF players played at least 11 minutes, and eight of them scored. This is a deep team.
The Bulls held Cincinnati to 33.3% shooting in their own house. The Bearcats normally have 43.3% shooting.
On the downside, USF's leading scorers this season, the dynamic duo of Victor Rudd and Corey Allen Jr., combined for only 17 points on 6-19 shooting. In our preview, we noted that USF wins when Rudd scores well; that didn't happen here, although Rudd did have a clutch three-pointer with the shot clock running down.
Rudd's three pointer was the only one the Bulls hit, as they went 1-11 from behind the arc.
Next up is a big rivalry game at UCF.