TAMPA - Jawanza Poland posted a game-high 17 points off the bench,
but the Bulls didn't have enough firepower down the stretch to seize their
first Big East win of the season Thursday night.
USF had two shots at tying it up in the final minute before
losing to the Scarlet Knights, 70-67, at the Rutgers Athletic Center. The Bulls
fell to 9-7 and 0-4 in league play while Rutgers improved to 12-4 (3-2).
"It's a tough loss for us. I thought our team fought hard,
and since the break probably played one of our best games," USF head coach Stan
Heath said. "We were much better offensively, not as strong on the defensive
end and they kind of took advantage of maybe some matchups with those quick
guards that they have."
Anthony Collins returned to top form with 11 points and
eight assists, Victor Rudd added 11 points and freshman JaVontae Hawkins posted
10 points in a starting role as USF was unable to halt its losing streak at
"I wanted to improve offensively and saw significant
improvement in that area," said Heath, whose Bulls averaged 45 points in losses
to Syracuse, Villanova and Louisville.
USF's offense started with an early surge in the Bulls'
final stop during a two-game road trip.
A pair of alley-oop dunks by Poland and Hawkins helped USF
start off with a 12-9 lead with 10 of those points scored inside the paint.
A dunk Rutgers' Kadeem Jack marked the first of four lead
changes before a 3-pointer by Zach LeDay gave USF a 28-27 advantage with 42
seconds to go before halftime. Martino Brock's bank shot off the glass beat the
buzzer and gave the Bulls more momentum heading into the break.
Hawkins was up to 10 points at halftime after helping USF
finish with a 22-10 edge in the paint. LeDay started 3-for-3 from the field and
scored all of his seven points in the first period.
Four points apiece from Carter and Myles Mack powered an
11-2 run that put Rutgers ahead, 38-32, three minutes into the second half. The
Scarlet Knights had an eight-point lead with less than nine minutes to go when
Poland stepped up when USF needed a spark. The senior hit two straight
3-pointers and two Collins free throws cut Rutgers' lead to 56-54 with 7:33 to
Carter checked back into the game with four fouls a minute
later and his presence on the court reignited a Rutgers offense that went on a
9-4 run after Collins' free throws. Rutgers' lead was back up to eight until
Rudd nailed a 3-pointer with 3:04 left and Poland followed with an alley-oop
dunk to get the Bulls within three with 2:17 remaining.
Down by three, USF forced its first turnover of the second
half with less than a minute to go but turned it over. The Bulls' had one last
shot at tying it up before the buzzer, but Rudd's last-second 3-point attempt
"Unfortunately we lost, but we continued to make
improvements in a lot of areas and we have to continue to build on that," Heath
The Bulls are 7-4 at home this season and look to add to
their Sun Dome success 6 p.m. Saturday against Georgetown.