QUEENS, N.Y. — USF couldn't overcome a slow start on offense in a 69-54 loss to St. John's at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday, the ninth straight loss for the Bulls.
USF (10-16, 1-13 Big East) trailed 14-2 just more than four minutes into the game and managed only 17 points in the first half while being extremely passive against a zone. The Red Storm (16-10, 8-6) expanded a 16-point halftime lead to 22 with 15:49 remaining before the Bulls' offense came alive.
"We kind of settled for jump shots at the beginning," USF forward Victor Rudd said. "We played good defense, we just didn't score the ball. We ended up down before we even picked it up and that kind of hurt us later in the game."
Next up for USF: A visit to Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Rudd helped USF's offense get going during the second half. He had 13 of his 18 points during the final 20 minutes and grabbed 11 rebounds for his sixth double double of the season.
Mike McCloskey also gave the Bulls a big lift offensively. The little-used senior point guard was forced into action when Anthony Collins picked up his fourth foul with 17:18 remaining in the game. McCloskey played 12 minutes and had three assists and no turnovers.
"When he was in the game we were plus-16 scoring," coach Stan Heath said of McCloskey. "I think that says it all. He gave us movement, he gave us spacing and he's got a good feel for how to play."
Better movement against the zone helped USF fix some of its offensive woes. After shooting 25 percent in the first half, the Bulls shot 48 percent in the second and 50 percent from 3-point range. The free-throw shooting didn't improve, though, as USF shot 3-of-12 from the line.
The slow start haunted USF all the way to end as it could close only within nine with 1:25 remaining on the first 3-pointer of McCloskey's career.
"Unfortunately it just takes five, seven minutes where you're not scoring and a team goes on a 10-0 run and you dig yourself a deficit and it's hard to recover," Heath said. "We improved tonight offensively, but it wasn't enough."