VILLANOVA, Pa. — USF couldn't win a second straight Big East road game, struggling with its shooting and losing 72-59 Wednesday at the cozy 6,500-seat Pavilion.
It was Villanova's 15th consecutive victory at the Pavilion and its 11th in a row this season while keeping its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. The Wildcats, looking for their fourth straight berth in the NCAA Tournament, are 18-11, 8-9 in the conference.
"It's disappointing," USF coach Stan Heath said. "You're always looking to build around a win like that (against Rutgers). I didn't think we did it."
USF (12-18, 3-14), which has lost 14 of 16, got 29 points from Big East rookie of the week Dominique Jones, who extended his freshman scoring mark to 511.
Chris Howard added nine points for the Bulls, who shot 17-of-54 from the field (32 percent) and 4-of-23 on 3-pointers.
"We had open shots," Jones said. "We just didn't knock them down."
Heath pointed to Villanova's suffocating defense as a reason for the poor shooting.
"They were the more aggressive team," Heath said. "The way they got after it defensively got us out of our rhythm."
Shane Clark paced Villanova with 15 points and Scottie Reynolds had nine.
USF missed 22 of its first 26 shots and fell behind 33-16 with 2:47 remaining in the first half.
The Bulls wound up 5-of-25, including 2-of-12 from 3-point land, and trailed 35-21 at halftime. With seven missed free throws (9-of-16) and seven turnovers, they were fortunate to be facing just a 14-point deficit.
USF got within 44-38 on a layup by Jones with 11:28 left. Villanova responded with a 9-2 run capped by a 3-pointer and basket from Clark for a 53-40 advantage with 6:56 left.
Kentrell Gransberry was 3-of-9 on free throws and finished with five points and eight rebounds, fouling out with 5:43 left.
USF plays its season finale Saturday against No. 19 Notre Dame at the Sun Dome.
"It's going to be hard," Heath said. "We're going to have to play a whole lot better."