Fouls doom Bulls in 66-61 loss to Dukes
TAMPA -- USF went into Saturday's game with James Madison with exactly three post players available, so it was crucial that the Bulls be careful about fouls in the frontcourt.
Over the final 6:24, all three fouled out for USF, and the Bulls, up five points before they started going shorthanded, saw James Madison close the game on a 15-5 run, a familiar finish to a disappointing 66-61 loss in the Sun Dome.
"From my viewpoint, that was very much an unacceptable loss," said coach Stan Heath, whose team blew a 14-point first-half lead, then led by 10 in the second half. "I thought we got a lead, we got comfortable, relaxed, let that team get momentum going and never really re-established ourselves. The things we had been doing, especially on the defensive end, our intensity just wasn't the same."
USF (6-6) has seen all six losses come by eight points or less, most with late leads that disappeared down the stretch. On Saturday, the Bulls hit just one field goal in the final seven minutes. Immediately after a 3-pointer from Hugh Robertson pulled the Bulls within one, forward Ron Anderson looked to have blocked a JMU shot with 40 seconds left, but he was called for a foul, and the Dukes' Devon Moore hit both free throws.
"Biggest call of the night," Heath said. "That was a pivotal, pivotal, pivotal call. It shocked me."
JMU (8-3) got 24 points from power forward Denzel Bowles, who consistently drew fouls from USF defenders. The foul trouble was exacerbated by the fact that starting forward Augustus Gilchrist was at the end of the bench in warmups, not playing by Heath's decision after he abruptly left the team for the previous two games, rejoining the Bulls at Friday's practice.
In foul trouble from late in the first half, the Bulls' big men couldn't stop themselves from unnecessary and costly fouls.
"Obviously the big difference in the game was fouls," Heath said. "Three big guys that all fouled out, that's a lot to tackle for us."
USF had strong nights from junior college transfers Jawanza Poland and Robertson, who each reset their career highs with 19 points, going a combined 7-for-15 on 3-point attempts. Robertson, who filled in at power forward at the end of the game, had a double-double with 11 rebounds, as did senior Jarrid Famous, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 3:53 left. Forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick had already fouled out with 6:24 to play, and the remaining post player, Ron Anderson, fouled out in the final minute.
Fatigue could have been a factor in the Bulls' poor finish, as all three starting guards played at least 35 minutes, with Heath's bench accounting for two points in just 33 minutes of action.
"We've got to get more production from our bench," said Heath, whose team next plays Wednesday at Cleveland State. "The game has changed consistently. Kent State we're up, Auburn we're up, this game we're up, and we go to the bench and we lose those leads. In some kind of way, we have to get more production from some guys off our bench."