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‘Too little, too late’

St. John’s 66 USF 62

It almost looked liked two different teams showed up to play each half Wednesday night for the men’s basketball team.

The Bulls trailed St. John’s by 21 points at halftime and appeared to be out of the game. USF came out of the locker room and dominated the Red Storm in the second half, but the early deficit was too much to overcome as the Bulls lost 66-62 at Carnesecca Arena.

“(At halftime) I said to them, ‘You can do it your way, and this thing could mushroom to 40 or 50, or you can play smart and play our way and play the way we’ve played the last couple games,'” coach Robert McCullum said.

Trailing 40-19 at the start of the second half, the Bulls (12-12, 3-7) answered McCullum’s request and went on a 25-7 run, getting within two points of St. John’s (14-10, 5-6) twice. Point guard Chris Howard hit a three-pointer with 11.6 seconds remaining to cut the Red Storm’s lead to three points, but St. John’s Avery Patterson’s late free throw made it a two-possession game, ending USF’s hope of winning its first Big East road game. “(In the second half) we played harder, we played better defense, we played with more patience on offense and took care of the basketball,” McCullum said. “When you string together stops defensively and you execute on offense, you have a better chance to win, and unfortunately it was too little, too late.”

Center Kentrell Gransberry had one of his best performances of the season. The 6-foot-9 senior scored a team-high 20 points and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds, giving him his eighth double-double of the season. Gransberry accounted for 15 of his points in the second half.

“We picked it up in the second half … we just didn’t let up,” Gransberry said. “We came out in the second half (and) played harder and told ourselves, ‘We were going to get this win.'”

The Red Storm’s perimeter game – 21 points from three-point range – and 11 first-half turnovers for USF led to the early double-digit point differential. Several of the Bulls’ turnovers were poor passes that ended up out of bounds or in the hands of St. John’s.

“Sometimes when you turn the ball over, (it’s because of) the other team’s pressure -they’re trapping you, they’re pressing you full court, they’re forcing you into the errors – but none of those were the case tonight,” McCullum said. “We forced the ball into areas where there was no need to.”

USF is 0-13 on the road since joining the Big East last season and hasn’t won a regular-season road conference game in more than two years, dating back to its days in Conference USA.

A win against the Red Storm would’ve put USF in 12th place in the Big East. Instead the Bulls are in 14th place, two spots out of the top 12 that make the conference tournament. If USF is going to make its first trip to the Big East Tournament, McCullum believes his team is going to have to break its road losing streak.

“We’re going to have to win on the road,” McCullum said. “We only have three home games left, and you’d like to think six wins could be enough, but when you look at where a number of teams are now … it may take seven wins.”