Bulls take close loss, 67-57, at Notre Dame
The Times is still committed to paying for a local writer to cover the Bulls at all road basketball games. Here's our game story from correspondent Darryl Mellema:
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It’s not like USF hadn’t been in this position before, playing a ranked team close and then losing.
But Sunday’s game was at Notre Dame, a team that until recently had the longest home court winning streak in the nation. Despite rallying through the second half, USF ended on the wrong end of this Big East contest, losing 67-57. The short answer to whether or not the Bulls wanted to count this as a moral victory was easy.
"No," said guard Dominique Jones, who finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But Jones added, "You’ve got to get the positives out. We came out and we played hard."
While USF (8-16, 3-9) has made a break with the absolute basement in the Big East, moving higher is still a chore. Notre Dame (14-10, 5-7) didn’t make that job any easier.
"They finished plays down the stretch and we didn’t," said guard Jesus Verdejo, who led the Bulls with 18 points.
The Bulls played the game wearing their practice uniforms. The team’s game jerseys and shorts are somewhere between Tampa and Indiana.
"If we would have won, we would have kept wearing them," USF coach Stan Heath said. "We’ll get back home and try to figure out what happened. They’re missing right now. We’ll figure out if it’s from the plane trip or if they’re back at home."
The key to the second half came midway through the second half. Trailing for much of the game, USF tied the game at 51-51 on a Verdejo free throw with 9:43 to play.
Notre Dame went back ahead when Luke Harangody put in an offensive rebound. USF then had five possessions to draw level again – and turned the ball over once and missed four shots. So when the scoreboard changed again, Notre Dame extended its lead to 55-51 on a Harangody jumper with just over five minutes left. Harangody finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
USF's drought continued and when Kyle McAlarney hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:48 left, the hosts’ lead was 61-53. McAlarney scored 19 points and hit five 3-pointers.
"We made a couple of bad decisions," Jones said. "We had a couple of good looks. We just didn’t knock them down. We’ve got to knock them down."
Alex Rivas ended the dry spell with a short hook in the lane with 1:41 to play.
The Bulls return home to face Georgetown on Wednesday night in the Sun Dome.