With its near misses, offensive struggles and players battling injury, Saturday summarized USF’s season.
Despite two good looks with the clock dwindling, the USF men’s basketball team couldn’t tie the game with last-second shots and fell 45-42 at Rutgers in the Bulls’ last regular-season game of the year.
Trailing by three with less than 12 seconds remaining, freshman Augustus Gilchrist had a three-point effort go off the rim, but junior Chris Howard grabbed an offensive rebound. Howard then passed to senior Jesus Verdejo, who launched a three-pointer from the top of the key that clanked off the back of the iron as the buzzer sounded.
“I thought we had some good looks at the end, and Verdejo had a really good look, but unfortunately they just didn’t go down for us,” said USF coach Stan Heath.
USF had only one possession in the final two minutes, after two straight offensive rebounds by the Scarlet Knights led to Rutgers sophomore Earl Pettis’ tip-in to make it 45-42 with 13 seconds remaining. Rutgers finished with 15 offensive rebounds.
“The rebounding was a nightmare,” Heath said. “The offensive rebounds — they really went after the ball on the glass, and they really set the tone of the game with that. They were able to just throw up multiple shot after multiple shot.”
Neither team shot well. USF finished 29 percent from the floor, while Rutgers shot
31 percent and scored two points in the final eight minutes after extending its lead to 43-34 at the 8:40 mark.
Verdejo returned from plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis in his right ankle to finish with five points in 22 minutes played. Sophomore Dominique Jones went 0-for-6 from the three-point range but finished with a team-high 11 points.
“I didn’t expect to use (Verdejo) that much — I figured he would have played only 10 or 15 minutes, but I thought he was moving around well,” Heath said.
Heath said the Bulls will stay in New Jersey on Saturday and Sunday, then leave for New York and the Big East tournament Monday. USF will practice at the Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn on Monday to prepare for Tuesday night’s game against Seton Hall at 9 in Madison Square Garden.
“It’s a new season now, and that’s how we’ll approach the Big East Tournament,” Heath said. “I want the guys to have fun, but I also want them to do what’s necessary to get a win.”