Here's the story: USF drops third straight
Hey. Drove home without posting my game story. Here it is. More coming later ...
DAYTONA BEACH -- At least there weren't many people at the Ocean Center to witness another frustrating loss for Stan Heath and USF.
Playing to a weekday afternoon crowd of 255 fans, the Bulls lost a nine-point second-half lead with a late collapse, falling 74-67 to Rhode Island to drop to a humbling 0-3, USF's worst start in 20 years.
"We've just got to find ways to close games when we have the lead," said point guard Chris Howard, who had 16 points and six assists but had four second-half turnovers. "I really believe we were a better team tonight, we just didn't have enough to finish it."
The Bulls led 34-27 at the half, getting a double-double from center Kentrell Gransberry, and things looked good when URI forward Will Daniels got his fourth foul with 16:50 to play.
USF didn't extend its lead, missing five free throws, and after a technical foul on URI coach Jim Baron, the Rams (3-0) went on a 19-6 run, getting eight straight points from guard Jimmy Baron, who finished with 17.
The Bulls (0-3) got within five with 3:25 to play, but URI pulled away, giving USF their third loss by seven points or less. The Bulls haven't opened 0-3 since the 1987 season, when they finished 6-22.
"I thought we played a lot better, but unfortunately, when you're up eight or nine points, with a chance to extend it, you have to get stops and finish plays around the basket," said Heath, who was pleased to see only 16 turnovers but disappointed by 57 percent free-throw shooting. "We've got to mature and start making those kinds of plays."
Between the afternoon tipoff and USF's home football game against Louisville today, the Bulls had literally dozens of fans in the Ocean Center. USF didn't play to fewer than 2,114 fans last season; it's the Bulls' smallest crowd in at least five years, and the last time they played to less than 1,000 fans, they could at least say they were in Hawaii, with 434 fans watching the Bulls against Oregon State in 2005.
Gransberry finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but he went 6-for-16 from the field, putting him at 30 percent shooting in his two games. Guard Jesus Verdejo, who entered as the Bulls' leading scorer at 17.5 points per game, was held to one point, going 0-for-6 from the field.
"It's about mental toughness as a team," Howard said. "Coach Heath said at halftime they were going to make a run, but we have to stay strong and find ways to bounce back after they make their run. That has to be a team goal for the next two games."
One bright spot for the Bulls was freshman forward Orane Chin, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks off the bench. USF returns at noon today to face a Florida Atlantic team that lost to Rhode Island by 27 last week.
"It's important for us to put this behind us," Heath said. "Florida Atlantic is not going to be an easy game, and we can't carry our disappointment into the game (today)."