NEWARK, N.J. — There was no rest for weary-eyed USF. The team made it into New Jersey at 3 a.m. Tuesday, its schedule thrown off by the snowstorm that enveloped the Northeast.
The Bulls then played like they could have used a full night's sleep.
In its Big East opener Tuesday, USF fell 64-55 to Seton Hall at the Prudential Center. The Bulls struggled against the sputtering Pirates, continuing their season-long shooting woes. They shot 40 percent and were undone by errors in the final minutes of the game.
"If I had a tape recorder from three of our last four games, I can almost replay the same story," USF coach Stan Heath said. "We've been a team that hangs in there in last three or four minutes. We haven't learned what it takes to win. Down the stretch we made some plays that make you scratch your head."
In the final 5:30 of a six-point game, USF (6-8) turned the ball over three times, and Jowanza Poland was called for a charge on back-to-back possessions. Those were backbreaking mistakes in a game in which Seton Hall (7-6) led throughout the second half but never had complete control.
"It's our guard play," Heath said. "To win in this league you have to have good guard play. Your guards have to be the leaders, they have to exude some confidence and they've got to make good decisions down the stretch.
"We're not getting that right now. Especially down the stretch. We had a lot of transition opportunities that came up empty."
Hugh Robertson led the Bulls with 14 points, his fourth straight game in double figures. Augustus Gilchrist scored 12 off the bench for the second straight game after returning to the team, and Jarrid Famous had 11 points and seven rebounds. Poland added 10 points.
The Bulls went down 10 midway through the second half but responded by cutting the lead to 50-46 after a Gilchrist fadeaway jumper. But USF could not break the Pirates.
Heath refused to blame the loss on the Bulls' travel schedule or say it had an effect on how they played. The team had to fly into Washington then take a bus the rest of the way. It was not something Heath had ever experienced.
"I couldn't tell you the effects of what it does to your team," Heath said. "We didn't look like we were slow at all, but I didn't think we had the enthusiasm that you need to have in your Big East opener.
"I don't necessarily blame that on getting in at 3 in the morning. I give my team a lot of credit, nobody whined or complained. They came to play."