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St. John's Red Storm routs South Florida Bulls basketball

QUEENS, N.Y. — Justin Leemow hit a 3-pointer from the corner, and the home fans fell silent, ceding the floor to the handful of USF friends and family seated behind the visitors' bench. After a difficult first half, the Bulls led St. John's by two points with 12:55 remaining.

But in a season full of struggles, the good times didn't last long. USF didn't score again for nearly eight minutes as the Red Storm built an 18-2 run, running off with a 65-48 win Sunday at Carnesecca Arena.

"It's a struggle right now, just putting the ball in the basket, finishing some layups that we had early in the game and free-throw shooting," said Stan Heath, whose Bulls have lost 13 of their past 17 games. "That's just something that's been a nagging problem that we need to fix."

Sophomore guard Paris Horne scored 19 for St. John's, which is finally getting healthy after a tough six weeks. Forward Justin Burrell is wearing a protective mask after sustaining hairline facial fractures in December, while point guard Malik Boothe returned Sunday from a thumb injury that caused him to miss the past nine games.

The Red Storm (12-9, 3-6 Big East) had averaged 18 turnovers since Boothe's injury; his return helped that number drop to 10, while his aggressive defense on USF ball-handlers helped keep them from running their offense with much efficiency.

USF (7-14, 2-7) had a modest 11 turnovers but shot 35 percent, including 31 percent in the second half.

"What hurt us today was we didn't have the patience to work for a good shot," Heath said. "We just settled for so many questionable shots. That's where I thought we just didn't do our part in terms of executing the way we should have."

The Bulls were off-kilter from the start, needing 41/2 minutes to score their first points, but they stayed in the game and woke up after halftime. Gus Gilchrist hit a 3-pointer on the first play of the second half and USF scored on eight of its first 12 possessions.

Leemow's 3-pointer — his only points of the game — gave the visitors a 40-38 lead, but St. John's answered with a putback basket and renewed defensive vigor.

"That was a key moment in the game where we had a little run going and we didn't build on it," Heath said. "Eventually, St. John's capitalized on our inability to score."

St. John's 65

USF 48

St. John's Red Storm routs South Florida Bulls basketball 02/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 1, 2009 7:25pm]

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