TAMPA - The Bulls couldn't catch up to No. 25 Marquette after
suffering a lengthy scoring drought in the second half Monday night.
The USF men's basketball team went almost five minutes without
a point to start the second half and went nearly seven minutes without a field
goal in a 63-50 loss at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc.
"We didn't start the second half off very well again and
that's a problem," USF head coach Stan Heath said. "We have to come out of the
gates in the second half with a lot more energy and a lot more fight."
Marquette's Vander Blue scored 21 of his career-high 30
points in the second half to help the Golden Eagles (15-4, 6-1) move into a tie
for the conference lead with Syracuse. Marquette also extended its home win
streak to 21 games.
"Their speed really bothers you on both sides of the court," Heath said. "They
do a great job of putting pressure on you, rotating and finishing things up,
and we didn't do a good job of finishing layups."
USF (10-10, 1-7) was led by JaVontae Hawkins' career-high 14
points while Zach LeDay had 10 points and seven rebounds in another strong
performance from the freshmen. Victor Rudd was the other Bull in double figures
with 13 points.
"Those two guys are taking advantage of an opportunity,"
said Heath of Hawkins and LeDay.
Points were not an issue for the Bulls early in their third
USF knocked down four of its first five three-point attempts
on the way to grabbing a 20-17 lead more than midway through the first half.
LeDay hit two of those 3-pointers and teamed up with Hawkins to score 17 of the
Bulls' first 22 points.
Marquette took the lead back with a 6-0 run while USF went
scoreless for nearly five minutes until a thunderous Rudd dunk cut USF's
deficit to 26-24 with about a minute to go before the break. The Golden Eagles
went back inside and got a layup from Davantae Gardner to extend their lead to
28-24 just before halftime. Marquette scored 18 points in the paint and shot 56
percent in the opening period.
Hawkins was well on his way to a new career high in scoring
with nine points at the break. The guard's hot start was a huge help for a USF
team that turned the ball over 10 times in the first 20 minutes.
USF's second point drought of the game proved to be costly
as Marquette started the second half on a 10-0 run that pumped its lead up to 38-24.
USF's first point of the second half came on a free throw by Jawanza Poland
with 15:11 to play.
A flagrant foul on Gardner with 13:46 to play paved the way
for two Anthony Collins free throws and a 3-pointer by Toaryln Fitzpatrick cut
Marquette's lead to 40-30. Fitzpatrick's jumper was USF's first field goal of
the second half and it was knocked down with 13:03 remaining.
A 6-0 run by Rudd cut USF's deficit to 46-38 and a pair of
free throws by LeDay got the Bulls within eight with less than eight minutes
remaining. A 3-pointer by Poland put USF back within eight with 4:26 to play, but
that's as close as the Bulls got the rest of the way.
USF looks to regroup 2 p.m. Sunday at UConn. The Bulls meet back up with Marquette in Tampa on Wednesday,
Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.