Two steps forward, one step back.
After a busy weekend, the University of South Florida men's basketball team was still looking for answers after falling against Western Michigan, 58-53, in Sunday afternoon's USF Invitational before 3,612 fans at the Sun Dome.
The Bulls (2-2) couldn't finish strong in the tournament, shooting just 23.1 percent in the second half (6-for-23), getting outrebounded 39-26 overall and failing to convert on critical possessions down the stretch.
The Mid-American Conference's Broncos (4-1), who presented coach Steve Hawkins with his 300th career victory, got 3-pointers from Darius Paul and Jared Klein to take a 55-50 advantage with 3:20 remaining.
USF clawed to within a bucket, 55-53, after point guard Anthony Collins collected a steal at midcourt, then passed to Jawanza Poland, who swooped in for the basket, got fouled and hit the free throw with 1:53 remaining.
With under a minute to play, though, USF couldn't connect. Freshman Zach LeDay had a layup roll out. Poland scrambled for the loose ball, but his short jumper misfired.
On the other end, while the Broncos milked the shot clock, Nate Hutcheson drove inside for a layup, then connected on a free throw after being fouled by Victor Rudd.
"This is a very long, big basketball team,'' Hawkins said of USF. "We know they're good. We were hanging on for deal life. We had a chance to really buckle. Collins is, my gosh … I'm glad he's not in our league and we don't have to deal with a point guard like that.''
USF coach Stan Heath, who started his fourth different lineup in as many games, said he was frustrated by the subpar rebounding and poor shooting.
"It (rebounding) is a concern,'' said Heath, whose team was credited with just two offensive rebounds. "We're not very big. We've just got to find a way to make it happen.
"I thought we took pretty good shots. We just couldn't find the basket.''
Bulls senior guard Shaun Noriega had a game-high 16 points off the bench, while senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added 14 points, including four 3-pointers in the first half.
"We're trying to figure out the best group to make us successful,'' Fitzpatrick said. "We're mixing and matching, trying to figure out what works and how we can get the best chemistry.''
Collins, who had a career-high 12 assists, seven rebounds and two steals, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
The all-tournament team included Fitzpatrick, Hutcheson, Paul, Ben Averkamp of Loyola-Chicago and Troy Snyder of Maryland-Eastern Shore.
In Sunday's early game, Loyola-Chicago defeated winless Maryland-Eastern Shore 62-46.
USF will play its fourth game in five days when it hosts the Bradley Braves on Tuesday night at the Sun Dome.