USF loses road finale

Villanova 72, USF 59

The University of South Florida men’s basketball team went to Philadelphia on the heels of its first-ever Big East road win. The Villanova Wildcats had no intention of being the Bulls’ second victim.

South Florida (12-18, 3-14) could never really get into a rhythm, and the Wildcats (18-11, 8-9) dealt the team a 72-59 loss Wednesday night.

“Villanova has a good history, and they’ve been unbelievably good at home in the Pavilion,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “They were very aggressive tonight, and I thought that they were the team that really came to play.”

USF fell behind by double digits – 26-14 – midway through the first half, and went into the break trailing by 14 points.

“I thought the guys did battle. They did go out there. They did compete,” Heath said. “We just weren’t able to make the plays that we had to make.”

The Bulls’ struggles continued in the second half. USF cut the Wildcats’ lead to eight with around eight minutes left to play, but poor shooting doomed the Bulls’ chances for a comeback.

USF made just five field goals in the first half en route to a 17-for-54 shooting night, including a dismal 3-for-24 from three-point range.

“I thought we had a lot of good looks early on,” Heath said. “We had layups, we had free throws. You need to make those plays to keep yourself in the game.”

One bright spot for the Bulls was freshman guard Dominique Jones, who scored a game-high 29 points before fouling out with 1:04 remaining in the game.

Jones topped the 500-point mark on the season, making him one of just 15 USF players to reach that plateau.

“I thought in the first half that he was forcing things a little bit,” Heath said. “In the second half he was much more efficient, and he did a good job for us.”

Senior center Kentrell Gransberry had a tough night, scoring just five points before fouling out in the second half.

“(Villanova) got him into foul trouble, and by getting him into foul trouble, he was less aggressive,” Heath said. “This wasn’t a typical Kentrell Gransberry performance, and it’s too bad that it happened today. It’s hard to overcome that when it happens.”