Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF Bulls basketball team rallies to beat San Diego in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — USF coach Stan Heath has made no secret that he'd rather avoid close games.

With only eight men on his roster, Heath knows his team is not going to win many endurance contests.

But the Bulls pulled one off Sunday.

Senior Mike Mercer had a career-high 19 points to fuel a 69-60 comeback victory over San Diego before an estimated crowd of 150 in the Holiday Hoops Classic at the South Point Arena.

"Right now our bench is so short-handed," said Heath, whose squad opens Big East play Dec. 30 at Louisville. "But we knew this one would probably go down to the wire. Once we got a momentum swing, we just got energized. Over the last 16 minutes or so, we played Bulls basketball."

Though USF (10-2) led for most of the first half, Roberto Mafra nailed several timely shots to help the Toreros (5-8) rally late for a 32-30 halftime lead.

"I didn't think we were playing as hard as we needed to," said Heath, whose team beat San Francisco on Saturday in the tournament opener. "We sort of let them dictate the tempo, and we talked about that at halftime."

That lecture did not produce immediate results in the second half. Chris Lewis nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to give San Diego its biggest lead, 42-34, with 15:51 remaining.

But Mercer answered by driving to the basket for a layup to turn momentum in favor of the Bulls. That started a 15-1 run that gave USF a 49-43 lead midway through the half.

"In the second half, we came out with defensive intensity," said Mercer, who scored 13 points in the second half. "And that just got our offense going."

San Diego, meanwhile, struggled through a six-minute field-goal drought. The Bulls never relinquished the lead, and a pair of big dunks by Mercer appeared to deflate the Toreros.

Heath said the close game served as a tuneup for league play.

"We feel good about ourselves," said Heath, whose squad closed nonconference play with three consecutive wins. "Ten wins is a good benchmark. Now it's a new ballgame. We've got to come back after Christmas and be an even better team."

Dominique Jones had 18 points and six assists to help the Bulls top their win total for the 2008-09 season. Teammate Jarrid Famous finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Devin Ginty had 13 points and six rebounds to lead the Toreros, who were held to 30 percent shooting from the field.

USF 69

San Diego 60

USF Bulls basketball team rallies to beat San Diego in Las Vegas 12/20/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 10:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Rays journal: Alex Cobb brilliant, Alex Colome worrying in 10-inning victory (w/video)

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — RHP Alex Cobb couldn't have been much better for the Rays on Tuesday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning while working eight solid. And Alex Colome couldn't have been much worse, blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb carries a no-hitter into the seventh and pitches eight shutout innings in his best outing of the season.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb continues to look better and better, which could make the decision whether to trade him tougher. Cobb had a no-hitter through six and threw his biggest pitch with a 1-0 lead in the seventh, getting Josh Bell to roll into a double play.

  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park, Pittsburgh

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Blake Snell #4 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)