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Blazers show Bulls have long way to go
By IZZY GOULD
Published December 31, 2005
TAMPA - There's a sign in South Florida's locker room covered with inspirational statements.
Five words stand out: Find a way to win.
USF has plenty to search for after Friday's 59-47 loss to Alabama-Birmingham before a season-low 2,347 at the Sun Dome.
The Bulls (6-7) have dropped four of their past five after commiting a season-high 29 turnovers against the Blazers (8-3).
And it appears USF coach Robert McCullum has greater problems than X's and O's.
Starting point guard Chris Capko left the game two minutes into the second half after suffering what McCullum said was a "head injury." Capko's status for Thursday's game against No.25 West Virginia was unknown.
Capko was knocked to the ground then helped off the floor with blood pouring from his nose.
The walk-on junior left the Sun Dome shortly after 10 p.m. with a cut on the bridge of his nose and a bloody towel in his left hand. He said he was headed to a hospital for further evaluation. Capko had gotten a starting role in the wake of injuries to fellow point guards Chris Howard and Collin Dennis. He started 12 games.
McCullum realized the Bulls' chances of pulling a second-half come-from-behind upset diminished without a true point guard to handle the ball.
USF surprised the crowd with a 10-2 opening run. But the Bulls fell behind for good after Blazers forward Lawrence Kinnard hit a 3-pointer with just over 11 minutes left in the first half for a 16-13 lead.
USF fell behind by as many as 17 in the second half, but it still managed to pull within five twice after Capko's exit.
UAB coach Mike Anderson said he was concerned about a letdown after big wins against Old Dominion and Oklahoma State.
Anderson, a Nolan Richardson protege, felt the Blazers' fullcourt pressure left little breathing and ultimately wore down the Bulls.
UAB looked for scoring from Kinnard (13 points), Demario Eddins (13) and Marvett McDonald (11).
"You could see it going down the stretch," Anderson said. "They were pretty winded. Of course, that's why the bench is important. Depth is an important part of this game."
The Blazers focused on stopping Bulls guard James Holmes, who led all scorers with 18.
USF also got a big game from 6-foot-10 forward Solomon Jones, who finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks.
"It was another one of those nights where I just tried to find something to get my team going defensively," Jones said. "We got going a little bit, but we tried to play at their pace.
"Our coach told us we wouldn't be able to play at that pace."
The Bulls host their inaugural Big East game against the Mountaineers with plenty of questions looming.
"We realize it's not going to get any easier," McCullum said. " ... We're not just starting Big East play. We're starting Big East play against an outstanding team."