The way things were going Saturday for sophomore guard Dominique Jones, it seemed certain he would carry South Florida through an improbable comeback victory.
However, his attempt fell about 6 inches short. Jones scored more than half of USF’s total points but couldn’t do enough as the Bulls dropped their fourth Big East game this season with a 62-59 loss at West Virginia.
“Dominique Jones was really special,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “He really made some heroic plays out there on the court for us. I thought single-handedly he kept us in the ball game.”
Jones finished with 35 points.
With eight seconds remaining and two defenders in his face, Jones launched an errant three-point shot that clanked off the rim, enabling the Mountaineers to escape with a victory after blowing a 17-point lead.
Jones finished 11-for-25 from the field, hit 11 free throws and seemed to be the only USF player to show up in the first half.
The Bulls scored 20 points — 12 from Jones alone — and trailed by 14 in the first half.
“We were bad in the first half,” Heath said. “I thought we came out with a terrible energy level and sleep walked.”
Jones said Heath put a spark in the team at halftime.
“(Heath) came into the locker room and chewed us out, and we deserved it with the way we were playing,” Jones said.
Whatever Heath said, it worked.
Sparked by Jones’ 23 points second half points, the Bulls (6-11, 1-4) went on an eight-minute 23-7 second-half run to cut the WVU lead to 51-50 with 5:27 left.
“We were much improved in the second half,” Heath said. “It was like we were a totally different team.”
Some of USF’s all-too-familiar antics proved to be its downfall, though.
In the last five minutes, Jones botched an open dunk that went out of bounds. With the Bulls trailing by one, West Virginia got a basket after four offensive rebounds on
“It was like they played volleyball at the other end,” Heath said.
Poor three-point shooting didn’t help, either. USF finished 3-for-18 from outside, while the Mountaineers went 6-for-14.
Jones said it was a disappointing end for his team.
“We just have to learn to show up for all 40 minutes,” he said. “If we can learn to play for all 40 minutes, then we can start to win these games.”
As the Bulls prepare to face DePaul (8-10, 0-5) tonight at 9 at the USF Sun Dome, they could be without their second leading scorer.
Heath said senior guard Jesus Verdejo will be a gametime decision after suffering a concussion against the Mountaineers.
Verdejo, who played 37 minutes against WVU, collapsed in the locker room showers shortly after the game.
“I feel kind of bad about playing (Verdejo) so much in the game,” Heath said. “The poor kid had a concussion and we didn’t find out until after the game.”
Heath said he was impressed with Verdejo’s ability to still play.
“(Verdejo) never one time said anything, and that shows how tough he is on his part,” he said.