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Bulls erase sluggish first half, hold on at DePaul

USF coach Stan Heath’s loud and clear message at halftime apparently got through.

After struggling mightily on offense in the first half, the Bulls opened the second half with an 11-1 run and held on to beat pesky DePaul (8-21, 1-16) 63-59 on Tuesday night.

“We didn’t come out and play with energy like coach emphasized,” said junior center Jarrid Famous, who scored six of his eight points in the second half. “We just thought we could come out there and win without doing the things we needed to do.”

The Bulls trailed 27-22 at halftime to a team sitting in last place in the Big East standings, prompting a powerful halftime speech from Heath, Famous said.

“He got at everybody,” Famous said.

The Bulls had nine turnovers in the first half and just seven field goals, missing several point-blank layups.

“I just challenged them,” Heath said. “I don’t know what it was, but we needed a wakeup call.”

The Bulls outscored the Blue Demons 41-32 in the second half and had just two turnovers.

Junior guard Dominique Jones struggled from the field, but Famous, senior Chris Howard and sophomore Augustus Gilchrist all provided a lift. Howard had 13 points, Famous grabbed nine rebounds off the bench and Gilchrist finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

Jones, who had 20 points on 4-of-17 shooting, hit a 3-pointer to put USF up 59-56 at the 2:01 mark in the second half.

“(Jones) was a little frustrated, and I was on him pretty good,” Heath said. “… It was about the last five minutes, and he said, ‘Coach, I’m just not playing well.’ I said, ‘I’ve seen the great players have bad games and at the end of the game step up. He made a huge shot at the end of the game.”

With the win, USF (18-11, 8-9) has a chance to earn a first-round bye in next week’s Big East tournament if it can beat Connecticut on senior day at 2 p.m. on Saturday.