TAMPA - The Bulls jumped out to an 11-point lead at halftime
but couldn't heat back up after the break in a 76-66 loss to Providence at the
Sun Dome on Wednesday night.
The Friars (13-11, 5-7) started the second half on a 23-2
run on the way to posting their third consecutive league win. Providence shot
64 percent after the break and Kadeem Batts' 24 points led four players in
"Unfortunately I've seen this same song before. It was a bad
song in the second half," USF head coach Stan Heath said. "We let that momentum
get away from us and they went on a great run."
Victor Rudd returned to USF's lineup in a big way with a
game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds. The junior did not play in the Bulls' loss
at Villanova on Saturday because of a groin injury.
"I played hard. It's still hurting me a little bit, but I
did the best I could to try to get the win," Rudd said.
Anthony Collins also had a strong game with 12 points and 10
assists, and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick finished with 14 points in USF's seventh
"I thought we shared the ball better, but our defense in the
second half was not at the level it needed to be at all," Heath said.
The first half was a much different story for a USF team
that grabbed a 36-25 advantage at the break.
The Bulls (10-14, 1-11) started the game on a 10-2 run,
powered by a 3-pointer from Fitzpatrick and a rim-rattling dunk by Rudd. A pair
of baskets apiece from Kore White and Collins pumped USF's lead up to 20-7.
A hot start turned into nearly a six-minute cold spell for
the Bulls while the Friars went on a 10-0 run. A Martino Brock jumper with less
than seven minutes to go before the break reignited the Bulls. Rudd connected
on two jumpers and Fitzpatrick added his second 3-pointer to get USF's lead
back up to 10.
Rudd finished the first half 5-for-8 from the field and had
12 points. Collins was well on his way to a posting a solid stat night with
eight points and five assists.
"I thought we wasted some good performances. I thought Rudd
had his best Big East performance ever," Heath said.
The Friars fired back as soon as play resumed and seized the
lead with a 17-0 run. The Bulls' first points of the second half came on a
tip-in by JaVontae Hawkins more than seven minutes into the period. Providence
continued on a 23-2 run with a dunk by LaDontae Henton that gave the Friars a
48-38 lead with about 11 minutes remaining.
"One half we play great defense, the next half we don't.
We've got to put it together," Rudd said.
A 3-pointer by Fitzpatrick cut USF's deficit to 56-45 with
7:21 remaining and another from the senior got the Bulls within eight with less
than six minutes to play. A 3-pointer by Rudd cut Providence's lead to 66-61
with less than two minutes to go but that's as close as the Bulls would get the
rest of the way.
The Bulls stay at home to
host No. 12 Louisville 1 p.m. Sunday at the Sun Dome. The game will be
televised nationally on ESPN.