Bulls falter late

Syracuse 70 USF 53

Most of the fans inside the Sun Dome on Wednesday night gave a standing ovation after the men’s basketball game between USF and Syracuse – the ones clapping were wearing orange and white.

Orange fans appeared to account for the majority of the 6,292 fans in attendance to watch Syracuse (18-8, 7-5) beat USF 70-53, leaving the Bulls in 14th place in the Big East with five games remaining.

“I knew (there would be a lot of Orange fans) based on the number of Syracuse alums that live in this area, so I wasn’t surprised,” coach Robert McCullum said. “(But) when I first walked out onto the floor, I was relatively surprised.”

USF (12-14, 3-9) traded the lead three times with the Orange in the first half, which ended with Syracuse ahead by just one point. However, the Orange outscored the Bulls 38-22 in the second half.

In his first game of the season after a knee injury, freshman forward Zaronn Cann made a field goal with 6:48 left in the game to get USF within eight points. After Cann’s basket, the Orange closed the game on an 14-5 run.

“Syracuse didn’t do anything that surprised us or caught us off guard,” McCullum said. “They got some open looks in transition, (three-pointers) that we knew we needed to take away (and) some offensive boards.”

Wednesday’s loss was the third straight in which the Bulls were outscored by double digits in one half while outscoring or at least staying close to their opponent in the other.

In its loss to St. John’s on Feb. 7, USF trailed by 21 points at halftime before outscoring the Red Storm 43-26 in the second half. On Sunday, the Bulls fell behind Louisville by 30 before the break, but outscored the Cardinals by 10 points in the second half.

On Wednesday, USF hung with Syracuse in the first half, this time having its meltdown toward the end of the game.

“One half we’ll come out and do what we’re supposed to do – go with the game plan, get in a grove,” said forward Melvin Buckley, who scored 17 points. “And then one half we’ll come out and (be) too antsy. We’ll try to get out running, and we don’t have bodies to do that right now.

“When you try to get out and run with (a) team that’s as deep as Syracuse … and the teams we play in the Big East, you’re going to run out of gas. And when you run out of gas, they take advantage of you.”

The Bulls shot 45.5 percent from the field before halftime, while holding the Orange to 33.3 percent. However, USF struggled in the second half, making just 32 percent of its shots.

“We were pretty happy with (the way we played in the first half),” Buckley said. “Our game plan was to come out and attack them in the first five minutes (in the second half), and we didn’t do too bad at that. It was just the 15 minutes after that that kind of got us.”