Bulls lose in first round

With a halftime lead and the game seemingly within reach, the Bulls let a recurring problem haunt them.

Playing in its first Big East tournament game, USF churned out another disappointing second-half performance and ended its season with a 68-54 loss to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

“We had the first half, but we lost focus, especially on the inside,” said USF assistant coach Dan Hipsher. “In the first half, we controlled the court but as the second half went along, we began missing shots.”

After falling behind by five with less than 14 minutes remaining, the Pirates went on a 14-4 run to extend their lead to 58-45 at the 7:39 mark in the second half to put the game out of reach.

“We made some silly mistakes,” Hipsher said. “I thought we made some unnecessary mistakes, at times, but we didn’t really have a full-court turnover in the game. The thing that hurt us was that Seton Hall scored off of our turnovers.”

The Bulls controlled the first half, though.

USF shot 51 percent and Chris Howard’s three-point shot with less than 30 seconds gave the Bulls a 32-30 advantage into halftime.

However, USF shot 34 percent in the second half and finished 10-for-20 from the free-throw line. The Bulls turned the ball over 10 times, too.

“We just don’t have that offensive firepower to shoot well throughout the game,” Hipsher said. “It’s something we’ve been missing.”

Sophomore guard Dominique Jones capped off an impressive season with 14 points, seven assists and one turnover Tuesday night. Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell led the Pirates with a game-high 23 points.

USF ends its season with a program best four conference-wins and graduates three seniors: guard Jesus Verdejo and forwards B.J. Ajayi and Aris Williams.

Hipsher said the Bulls will take spring break off and then begin off-season workouts the following week.

“We fought through a lot of stuff this season,” he said. “We were a team that was picked last in the Big East and we battle through some injuries, we played through a lot of adversity.”