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Bulls fall to Orange in Big East opener

Published: Monday, January 7, 2013

Updated: Monday, January 7, 2013 14:01

The USF men’s basketball team, who played in front of a sold-out arena Sunday, had a hot start against No. 7 Syracuse, but eventually fell to the Orange (14-1,2-0) in a 55-44 loss for USF, making it the fifth straight season that the Bulls (9-4,0-1) lost to Syracuse.

USF started the matchup against the Orange with a bang as sophomore point guard Anthony Collins tossed one up to junior forward Victor Rudd for an alley-oop that was greeted by roaring USF fans, who were outnumbered by the Orange shirts in the upper deck of the Sun Dome. 

After Rudd put up USF’s first points of the game, he
continued with another alley-oop, a dramatic block, a big put-back dunk and a big 3-pointer, which put Rudd on the Bulls’ highlight reel in the first half alone. Big plays by Rudd had USF off to an early 17-7 lead over the Orange.

But though the Bulls held a big lead early on, Syracuse proved why they were a Top 10 team. The Orange soon narrowed the gap eventually ending up in the lead, finishing the first half 30-23 over USF.

“You’re not just going to hold that team to nothing, they responded and they stepped up,” coach Stan Heath said. “I wish we could have ridden it out but one thing they did was turn it up a notch.”

The Orange’s defense successfully contained Collins, shutting him out completely in the first half with no points, and only letting him put up five in the second half. 

While Rudd proved to be a factor after tip off, the Big East matchup featured two of the top point guards in the conference in Collins and Syracuse sophomore Michael Carter-Williams.

Williams leads the Big East in assists, averaging 10.14 per game with Collins just behind him, averaging 7.82 per game and recording seven in Sunday’s game. Williams also leads the conference in steals with 42 total and three per game.

With both teams shooting under 50 percent from the field in the first half and having overall poor offensive play, in spite of a few big moments, it was clear that adjustments had to be made. 

While Rudd blew up to start the game, the high-flyer was held to only two points in the second half, finishing the day with 15 points as the Bulls’ lead scorer. Rudd did show off the rebounding skills that landed him as the fourth best in the conference. As the final buzzer went off, Rudd snagged 11 rebounds total, making him the top rebounder between both teams despite Syracuse’s size. 

As the two top players for the Bulls were being shut down offensively, the second half featured a USF team that was playing catch-up. Though Syracuse’s offense never caught fire in the second half, USF also seemed to find it difficult to get on a roll, causing an offensive stalemate.

“At the end of the day, the difference in the game is we didn’t shoot well, but they didn’t shoot well either,” Heath said. “I told my team that we beat them in every percentage in every offensive area, but the offensive rebounds were ridiculous. Their size, quickness, and length just gave them so many more opportunities.”

Each team finished the night shooting well under 50 percent from the field, USF at 40 percent and Syracuse with
36 percent. The Big East competitors also shot under 30 percent from beyond the arch.

“We had a nice crowd and great atmosphere, but we came up short,” USF head coach Stan Heath said. “We had moments where we looked really special and we had times where we just stood around and didn’t attack very well against their zone.”

With Syracuse now behind them, the Bulls will look to redeem themselves in Big East play as they tip off with Villanova on Wednesday in the Sun Dome at 8 p.m.

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