MILWAUKEE — The Big East struggles continued for USF in a 63-50 loss Monday night at No. 25 Marquette.
The Bulls shot just 27.3 percent from the floor (15-of-55) and couldn't contain Marquette's speed, especially junior guard Vander Blue, who finished with a career-best 30 points.
The 6-foot-4 junior hit 13 of 20 shots and grabbed six rebounds. He paced an offense that made just 2 of 15 3-pointers but still shot 55 percent from the field and dominated in the paint, where Marquette outscored the Bulls 38-14 and took advantage of USF's shooting woes to push the ball up the court.
"He was sensational," Bulls coach Stan Heath said. "Their team speed is what makes them so good. We had to figure out something. We were missing a lot of shots and not shooting well, so we had to pick our poison and focus on grabbing the offensive rebound … the counter of that was they got too many transition baskets and out hustled us down the floor. And Blue really took advantage of that."
Javontae Hawkins had 14 points, Victor Rudd 13 and Zach LeDay 10 for the Bulls (10-10, 1-7), who lost their third in a row and seventh in their past eight games.
The game was played two days after a wayward bat in the Bradley Center disrupted the Golden Eagles' 81-71 win over Providence by dive-bombing the court for several minutes. Center officials flushed the bat out Monday afternoon by recreating tipoff conditions with lights and music.
The Bulls trailed 28-24 at the half but gave up the first eight points of the second. By the first media timeout of the half, Marquette's run was up to 12-1, and the Golden Eagles led 40-25.
"I thought we just had a slow start," Heath said. "They really jumped us out of the gates, and that was the separation the rest of the way. We fought back pretty good and had a chance when we cut it to eight. (Jawanza) Poland had an open 3 — it was a good look. If we could have got that, cut it to five and put a little pressure on them, who knows what could have happened."
Heath thought the Bulls might have caught a break when Marquette's leading post player, Davante Gardner, was forced out by a flagrant-2 foul with 13:46 left. Gardner hit LeDay in the head with an elbow while they battled for the ball.
USF cut the deficit to 10 after Anthony Collins made two free throws and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick hit a 3-pointer with 13:06 left, but the Bulls couldn't get any closer than eight.
The victory pushed the Golden Eagles (15-4, 6-1), who returned to the top 25 after a one-week hiatus, into a first-place tie with idle Syracuse for the league lead.