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Friars fend off Bulls

After losing yet another turnover battle, the Bulls came up short, falling to the Providence Friars 68-63 in another loss on the road.

The Big East’s second leading scorer, senior guard Marshon Brooks, finished with 24 points to help the Friars (14-9, 3-7) beat South Florida (8-15, 2-8) for the first time since February 2009. Providence went on an 8-0 run late in the second half to build a nine-point lead that would prove too much for the Bulls to recover from.

Jawanza Poland had a team-high 20 points and sank a pair of free throws to cut the lead to two with a minute and a half left in the game. But the Bulls missed open shots on offense and were forced to foul on their way to yet another closely contended conference defeat.

The Bulls started out strong, attacking the basketball and playing hard-nosed defense – coming up with five blocks in the opening nine minutes. Providence packed in the lane defensively, forcing South Florida to rely on 3-pointers for the rest of the game.

USF went 6-21 from downtown and shot 12 free throws, compared to the Friars’ 28 attempts.

USF’s leading scorer, forward Augustus Gilchrist struggled offensively for the second game in a row. The junior had just 10 points on 4-14 shooting. Forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick finished with 13 off the bench and nailed two baseline threes to help give the Bulls a sliver of hope with under five minutes to play.

Careless turnovers made the difference in the game, with several lost USF possessions from traveling, carrying and loose ball fouls. The Bulls missed an opportunity to pick up a conference win against a team they beat in the Sun Dome on Jan. 16. Instead, they now have to pick up the pieces and prepare for a five-game stretch that features four teams ranked in the top 17 nationwide.

USF takes on No. 17 Syracuse in the St. Pete Times Forum Saturday at 2:00 p.m.