MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Jesus Verdejo's face was as long as his 6-foot-4 body, another winnable game having become another loss for USF, this one 62-59 Saturday to West Virginia.
"I don't know what it is," he said, standing in the hallway outside the Bulls' dressing room. "We just don't play hard for 40 minutes. We had guys who just didn't play hard for the first 15 or 20 minutes.
"I want to win. This is my last year. We have got to get everyone the same desire to win."
The first half was ugly for the Bulls (6-11, 1-4 Big East), who put only 20 points on the board as they fell behind by 14.
"I seriously thought about going home at halftime and taking my team, because we were pretty bad," coach Stan Heath said. "It didn't look like we had the energy level, and we weren't competing the way we needed to. But I thought we were a better team in the second half."
Dominique Jones was almost unstoppable in that half as he scored 23 of his game-high 35 points, one shy of his career high against Iona on Dec. 27. The biggest problem was that the only real offensive help he got was from Verdejo, who scored 11.
"I thought I was watching two against one," Heath said. "They had (Da'Sean) Butler and (Alex) Ruoff, and we had Jones."
Butler scored 27 and Ruoff 19 for the Mountaineers (13-4, 2-2).
"We need some more guys to step up for us," Heath said, a familiar lament this season.
Jones, like Verdejo and Heath, thought his team did not put forth much of a first-half effort.
"There were not many stops, and we made some dumb plays," Jones said. "We've got to eliminate the crazy stuff we do. We've got to get focus."
The focus came in the second half when the Mountaineers' effort seemed to dwindle.
"We're young, and I think sometimes it's hard to handle success," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of his team's penchant to squander halftime advantages. "Why did we stop passing the ball, I don't know. Why did we come down four or five times and shoot on the first pass, I have no idea.
"The only thing I can tell you is that, over the years and being in athletics, I've learned people have a hard time handing success and some prosperity. I think that's human nature."
It was the nature of this game as USF rallied to get within 55-54 before the Mountaineers got a 3-pointer from John Flowers, who had hit only two 3s this season.
"I don't shoot much at all," said Flowers, who averages fewer than three shots a game. "But when the opportunity comes and it's wide open, I'll take it."
Though USF had some opportunities, it never could get even. At one point Verdejo tried to launch a tying 3, only to have the ball slip from his grasp as he began to go up.