Bulls losing streak hits seven

With approximately four minutes remaining and the score tied 42-42, the Bulls had a realistic chance of ending their six-game losing streak Tuesday. But when its two best players fouled, USF fizzled out and suffered a 62-54 loss at the hands of the No. 16 Marquette Golden Eagles (15-4, 5-3).

The Bulls (10-11, 1-7) have now lost seven consecutive games, and their Big East Conference road losing streak has hit 20 games.

Despite missing starter Jesus Verdejo – who sat out Wednesday’s game because of a lower-back injury – USF started the game doing everything a team needs to do to win on the road. USF made shots on the offensive end and made key stops early, jumping out to an early 9-2 lead.

MU fought back, and with less than five minutes remaining in the first half, the Golden Eagles went on a 15-4 run going into halftime.

The Bulls turned the ball over eight times in the first half and trailed 32-24 at the break.

USF could not take a lead in the second half, but it did even the score several times. Bulls coach Stan Heath was satisfied with his team’s effort, despite the loss.

“The guys played their hearts out and I was really proud of the effort that they gave out there,” Heath said. “They did the things that we had been working on for the last four or five days.”

Despite having big performances from their key players, the Bulls just could not finish off the No. 16 team in the country.

“Obviously that game was just hanging in the balance,” Heath said. “We had a tie score – (a) one-point game. We were right there, right where we wanted to be.”

Senior center Kentrell Gransberry had his Big East-leading 12th double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. Freshman guard Dominique Jones also chipped in with 15 points while grabbing eight rebounds.

Despite the big performances, both players played most of the second half in foul trouble – and both fouled out within the game’s final four minutes.

“We did a good job of keeping pressure on them,” Heath said. “Unfortunately, when your two best weapons leave the game at the four-minute mark and three-minute mark, it really handicaps you.”

The Bulls had no answer for Marquette sophomore forward Lazar Hayward. Averaging 12.5 points per game on the season, Hayward scored 12 in the first half against USF. He finished with a career-high 23 points.

After dropping seven straight games, the Bulls are at the bottom of the Big East. Heath understands how important it is for his team to win now to have any shot at making the Big East Tournament.

“Our backs are against the wall, and we have to fight for one of those positions in the Big East Tournament,” Heath said. “Anything could happen right now. Someone else can go on a five- or six-game losing streak, and somebody else can go on a two- or three-game winning streak – hopefully that’s us.”