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Bulls hang tough but lose to Pitt

South Florida fought, hustled and even hung around, but in the end No. 1 Pittsburgh proved too much for the Bulls.

Back and forth for most of the game, the Bulls could not pull off the upset and fell 75-62 to the top-ranked Panthers on Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center.

“I thought we played well,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “We handled the crowd, we handled the road. They didn’t put together any huge runs against us. We stood toe-to-toe with them.”

Pittsburgh (16-0, 4-0), playing in front of its 124th consecutive sellout, went on a 13-3 run midway through the second half to extend its lead to 62-48 over USF, who trailed 41-37 at halftime.

Helped by three-point shooting, the Bulls (6-10, 1-3) were able to keep things close. USF hit five of its first six three-point shots and finished 50 percent from outside.

Sophomore guard Dominique Jones tied for a game-high 22 points, going 3-of-5 from the three-point range.

Jones said he was disappointed to come up short against the Big East’s best team.

“We played well, but we made some mistakes and let them take advantage of us a little bit,” he said. “We just have to eliminate stupid mistakes.”

It was less a mistake than a given that Pittsburgh dominated in rebounding. The Panthers beat USF on the glass 36-22.

Sophomore forward DeJuan Blair led the game with 18 rebounds and scored just under half of his 13 points on second-chance efforts. Heath said Blair was too tough of a matchup.

“Blair is a unique player,” he said. “It just seemed like they were getting two for one on us. Every time a shot would go up it seemed like he was there for a rebound.”

The Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 lead just 90 seconds into the game, but freshman Augustus Gilchrist helped the Bulls come back and tie it at 30-30 with 4:42 remaining in the first half.

Gilchrist went 10-of-15 from the field and finished with a career high 22-points.

“(Gilchrist) comes into the game ready to go,” Heath said. “I think you’re really seeing improvement from him in front of our eyes.”

The Bulls will stay in Pittsburgh, and then travel on Friday to West Virginia to play coach Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers (11-4, 1-2) on Saturday. Jones said he’s looking for the team to bring confidence into that matchup. The Mountaineers are coming off an 87-76 victory over Marquette.

“We just have to keep pushing,” he said. “We’re going to get better and rest up for the West Virginia game.”