Red Storm surge past USF in second half

USF fans have become all too familiar with the team’s losing script.

The Bulls (9-22, 3-15) hung tough with No. 15 St. John’s (20-10, 12-6) for 30 minutes Saturday night before falling short in their regular-season finale, 72-56.

With 9:35 to play, the Bulls held a 47-44 lead, contending for their first win over a ranked opponent this season. But the Red Storm went on a 20-6 run over the next six minutes to put USF well out of reach.

D.J. Kennedy anchored St. John’s offense with 16 points. Despite finishing with four players in double figures, the Bulls could not find the basket to close out the game. Aside from Ron Anderson Jr., who had 13, USF’s bench went scoreless.

Coming off a loss to Seton Hall that snapped a six-game winning streak, St. John’s converted second-chance opportunities and USF turnovers for easy points on its Senior Night. It forced the Bulls into 18 turnovers and scored 22 second-chance points off 16 offensive rebounds.

Offensively, USF had another lackluster second half. After shooting 50 percent before the break, the Bulls made just seven field goals in the second half and scored only 12 points in the final 10 minutes. The teams had similar shooting numbers, but hustle plays made the difference for the Red Storm, who took 11 more field goal attempts than the Bulls.

Augustus Gilchrist led USF with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting. After moving the ball well in the first half with nine assists, the Bulls had only one in the second. Shaun Noriega and Jarrid Famous added 14 and 10 points, respectively, but other than the four in double figures, USF scored just three points.

The Red Storm capitalized on mistakes the Bulls have made all season, scoring 16 points off turnovers.

Back-to-back losses to conclude the season places USF 15th in the Big East standings, just ahead of DePaul, meaning it will face No. 19 Villanova in the first round of the conference tournament.

The Wildcats have lost four straight, and their leading Corey Fisher may miss the game because of knee tendonitis. The Bulls remained in New York over the weekend. They’ll try to pull off the first-round upset Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Madison Square Garden.

Villanova defeated USF 83-71 Jan. 6.