NEW YORK — Going into the Big East tournament, the Bulls knew if they fared well at Madison Square Garden, they had at least an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Problem was, the Bulls had no outside shot during the actual games.
One day after going 0-for-9 on 3-point attempts in a win against DePaul, USF missed its first nine 3s again Wednesday, struggling from outside and inside in a 69-49 loss to No. 22 Georgetown that realistically ends the Bulls' hopes of earning an NCAA berth.
"We really struggled to find a shot," coach Stan Heath said after his team shot 29 percent. "It happened (Tuesday), but today it really caught up to us. … We just could not make a shot."
It means the Bulls will likely have to settle for the NIT, still their first postseason appearance in eight years and a step forward from a team that won nine games last season.
"I'm proud of my teammates and coaches. This year has been good to me," senior point guard Chris Howard said. "We just have to stay positive. There's more basketball to be played."
USF (20-12) came within 20 seconds of failing to hit a 3-pointer for the second game in a row, this after going six years with at least one 3 in every game. Star guard Dominique Jones had a game-high 21 points but did so on 6-for-18 shooting, missing all five of his 3-point attempts. In USF's last five games, Jones is 2-for-22 beyond the arc.
But the Bulls were the Big East's worst 3-point shooting team this season, so Heath was more disappointed by the struggles his post players had from much closer to the basket. Power forward Augustus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous were a combined 5-for-18 and unable to take advantage of foul trouble among Georgetown's post players.
As poorly as USF shot, it trailed by just nine with 10 minutes to play and with Georgetown's Greg Monroe on the bench with four fouls. Guard Chris Wright hit a key 3-pointer, and USF didn't get closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Monroe had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Hoyas (20-9), who play top-seeded Syracuse in today's quarterfinals.
The NIT field will be announced Sunday night, with USF in good position to host at least one game, with the opening round played Tuesday or Wednesday. USF hasn't won a postseason game in 15 years.
The Bulls had talked only of their NCAA hopes in amassing 10 wins against Big East teams, and Jones said his frustration wasn't so much with losing to a strong team like Georgetown but in other wins that slipped away during the course of the season.
"We determined what we were going to do. We gave up some games we should have won, and that's making the difference right here," Jones said. "Me setting the bar high, that's where it should be set at. If you want to be a big-time player and have a big-time program, that's where it should be set at. We just have to keep our heads high and go out there and play with pride, wherever we play at."