It was the same old story for USF (6-16, 0-9) on Wednesday night at the Sun Dome.
In another attempt to capture their first Big East win, the Bulls played another close game, but crucial mistakes down the stretch cost them again as they fell to Seton Hall (15-6, 6-3) 70-65 to extend their losing streak to 11 games.
“We were still in the position to win the game, and it feels like every game we’re in the position to win,” forward Melvin Buckley said.
USF was led by Buckley, who scored a game-high 26 points, 18 of which were from beyond the arc. Buckley tied his career high in points and made a three-pointer on three different occasions to give the Bulls the lead and made another one to tie it.
For the first time this season, senior guard James Holmes didn’t start, but Buckley, who shot six for 12 from three-point range, was able to take over as a perimeter shooter.
Holmes checked into the game with 12 minutes, 14 seconds left in the first half, but he was held to a season-low two points. Coach Robert McCullum wouldn’t say exactly why Holmes didn’t make the start.
“It was just something we were dealing with within the team that he just didn’t take care of, so that’s our way of dealing with it,” McCullum said.
The Bulls were dealing well with the Pirates, and after seven lead changes in the first half, USF went into the locker room at the break down 44-40.
The Bulls took their customary lead in the second half when junior guard Chris Capko scored two quick field goals early in to get the Bulls back in the game.
Capko, who only scored 10 points in USF’s first eight Big East games, started the game and finished with six points.
Defensive plays from Capko and center Solomon Jones, who had three blocks to go along with his 18 points, kept the Bulls close enough to have a chance to win.
Buckley, who shot nine for 17 from the field, had the ball with 6.1 seconds left and a chance to tie it, but he was called for traveling for the second time late in the game – one of three Bulls’ turnovers in the final two minutes and 58 seconds.
After the game Capko was frustrated, but he made it clear he won’t let the loss bring him down.
“It’s frustrating,” Capko said. “To say it’s taken a toll mentally or physically, I’d probably be lying if I said it hasn’t, but you can only go up.”
The loss marked the sixth Big East game the Bulls have lost by six or less.
“One of these days, we’re going to figure it out,” said Buckley, who is confident the Bulls will win a Big East game eventually. “I can’t give you the game when it’s going to happen, but one game we’re going to figure it out.”