Thursday, April 26, 2018
Sports

USF falls to Seton Hall in Big East tournament opener

NEW YORK

If USF's disappointing season could be summed up neatly in a single frustrating game, it would look a lot like the 46-42 overtime loss Tuesday night to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden, a difficult end to the Bulls' eight years in Big East basketball.

There was the Bulls' stifling, suffocating defense, nearly enough to win by itself yet in the end trumped by offensive struggles of historical proportions.

Up 37-29 with three minutes left, on course for a Big East tournament record for fewest points allowed, the Bulls (12-19) allowed Seton Hall (15-17) to end regulation on an 8-0 run, with Fuquan Edwin driving for three layups in the final 1:17, with three shots missed by the Bulls in the final four seconds.

"It's a tough way to finish our season. We gave the game away," coach Stan Heath said. "We had an opportunity to close it out in regulation. I think the wrong guys had the ball and some wrong decisions were being made. … We have to learn from this tough year. We've experienced both sides, with phenomenal success last year, and this year, we obviously didn't have the season we wanted to have."

USF shot 24.2 percent for the game, bad enough to reset the all-time low in 34 years of Big East tournament play, one shot worse than Seton Hall's 25.4 percent in a 2006 game against Rutgers.

"It was like there was a lid on the rim. We just couldn't seem to throw it in there," Heath said.

Overtime was more of the same. The Bulls shot 18 percent in the extra period, missing three shots in the final minute as the Pirates, losers of 11 of 12 coming in, stayed alive for another day. Heath said the Bulls relied too much on 3-pointers, attempting 26, including seven of their 11 shots in overtime.

"We took way too many 3-point shots, for the game but especially in overtime," Heath said. "We're not a great 3-point shooting team, so I don't know why we went to that as our way to finish."

USF had won its Big East tournament opener in each of the previous three years, but its final exit from the league's biggest event was an early one. The game mirrored Saturday's loss at Cincinnati, where the Bulls led by eight with 3:30 to play and lost in overtime.

USF freshman Zach LeDay had a career game, finishing with team highs of 13 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and three steals.

"Coach has been playing me through a lot of hostile environments," LeDay said. "I got to play a whole bunch of minutes and gained a whole bunch of experience. I just went out there like it was another game. I knew what my coach wanted me to do."

The Bulls' shooting woes were team-wide. Anthony Collins, who had nine assists, went 2-for-12, Martino Brock 2-for-10, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick 3-for-13, Victor Rudd 3-for-11. The Bulls lost despite taking 22 more shots than the Pirates, with 27 offensive rebounds leading to just 13 second-chance points.

Seton Hall advances to face fifth-seeded Syracuse today at 2 p.m. Rudd, who contemplated leaving for the NBA last season, said he expects to be back but left the door open for an early exit.

"I just want to get better. I'm focused on my team," Rudd said. "I have young guys coming in and I have to help the young guys already here to get better."

Asked if he feels confident he'll be back for his senior year, he said: "I do right now."

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