TAMPA — Facing a team from a mid-major conference that subsists from the 3-point line, USF could match neither its proficiency or efficiency Saturday afternoon.
The Bulls (4-2) surrendered 16 3-pointers to The Citadel (4-2) and failed to hit a field goal in the last 2 1/2 minutes in an 84-81 loss before an announced Yuengling Center audience of 2,626.
The 16 treys were the most ever converted by a USF opponent. Bulls sophomore David Collins got two solid looks from long range on USF's final possession, but missed both.
"We played hard, but we just weren't as sharp today, and that's disappointing," said Bulls coach Brian Gregory, whose team has played four games the past nine days, including two in Jamaica.
"We've got to get back on the court and practice. And this is the time of the year, in this stretch right here…where we haven't gotten as much practice time. And it clearly, clearly showed tonight in terms of our ability to stay true to who we are."
Though they shot nearly 45 percent (16-for-36) from long range, the Bulldogs ironically sealed things down the stretch with dribble penetration. Veteran guard Lew Stallworth's driving layup with 2:06 to play resulted in a three-point play, cutting the Bulls' lead to 79-78.
Stallworth (22 points, five assists) converted another layup 38 seconds later to give his team an 80-79 advantage.
"He completely dominated the game," Gregory said.
Two Collins free throws with 1:02 to play pushed the Bulls back ahead, but senior guard Connor Kern's layup 19 seconds later gave The Citadel a lead it wouldn't relinquish. USF turned the ball over its next possession, and Stallworth added two more free throws with 17 seconds to go.
The Bulls, who finished 21-for-36 inside the 3-point line, got 21 points each from Collins and guard Laquincy Rideau. They outscored The Citadel, 38-26, in the paint, but frequently were stymied by hasty shot selection (7-for-26 from long range) instead of patiently trying to work the ball inside.
"I think we had our chances," Collins said. "I think it started from the beginning of the game, that we didn't set the tone right and we let them stay in the game, and it hurt us in the end."