JAMAICA, N.Y. — It was a familiar outcome for USF.
The Bulls garnered a first-half lead and saw it go to waste in the final 20 minutes. It happened again Saturday night against 15th-ranked St. John's in a 72-56 loss before a sold-out crowd at Carnesecca Arena.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Paris Horne and Dwight Hardy put St. John's ahead 53-47 with 7:10 left, and the Red Storm didn't let up after those big shots.
"That's been the story this season," said USF center Jarrid Famous, who had 10 points. "We just can't put together a 40-minute game. When a team goes on a run it seems like we put our heads down and go, 'It's happened before, here we go again.' "
The Bulls (9-21, 3-14 Big East), who have lost eight of their past nine, opened the game with ample production from Augustus Gilchrist and Shaun Noriega, who combined for 22 of USF's 32 first-half points.
Similar to the Bulls' 27-24 lead against Pittsburgh in their last loss, a slim first-half lead against the Red Storm wasn't enough against one of the hottest teams in the nation.
Noriega's 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining in the first half helped the Bulls to a 32-30 halftime lead over St. John's (20-10, 12-6). USF shot 52 percent from the field in the half.
Things changed dramatically in the second half as the Bulls sank only 30 percent of their shots. Noriega, who finished with 14 points, scored just four in the half.
St. John's took a five-point lead with 15 minutes left, but USF responded with an 11-4 run to take a 45-43 lead with 10:04 left. That grew to 47-44 before Justin Brownlee tied it on a three-point play, and after a USF turnover, Horne hit a 3-pointer to put the Red Storm ahead for good.
While St. John's had balanced scoring, USF's offensive threats looked nonexistent down the stretch.
"It wasn't anything they did," Famous said. "It's all about us."
"A good team like St. John's is going to make runs," coach Stan Heath said. "I thought we held off the initial part of their run well and stayed within two or three points. In the second half the pressure of them getting up on us, you saw more of our guys getting into trouble, and we took a lot more difficult shots than we took in the first half."
Gilchrist led the Bulls with 16 points. D.J. Kennedy led St. John's with 16, followed by Hardy, who had 14, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range.
USF will stay in New York to play in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, which starts Tuesday. The Bulls, seeded 15th, play 10th-seeded Villanova.