A nine-point deficit turned into a 15-point lead which resulted in a one-point loss by USF at Rutgers by the score of 74-73 on Saturday at The RAC.
“Our guys laid their hearts out and played one heck of a game,” said head coach Stan Heath. “It was probably 36 minutes of the best basketball we’ve played. In a four-minute stretch, we let our guard down.”
Senior forward Victor Rudd (Los Angeles) scored a game-high 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. He also had nine rebounds to give the Bulls (12-17, 3-13) the edge on the glass 39-28.
“He hit a couple of big, big shots and everyone in the gym knew that we were getting the ball to him,” said Heath. “We just needed one more score”
USF trailed by nine points, 18-9 with 11:29 to play in the first half. The Bulls scored 27 of the next 35 points and ended the half on a 33-14 run to lead 42-32 at halftime.
USF held Rutgers (11-18, 5-11) without a field goal for over six minutes, which carried into the second half as the Bulls amassed their largest lead, 50-35 with 17:11 remaining in the game.
After shooting 58.6 percent from the field in the first half, USF went as cold as the New Jersey weather to begin the second half as it hit four of its first 17 shots. That allowed Rutgers to go on a 26-7 run and take a 61-57 lead with 8:22 to play.
There were eight lead changes in the final six minutes as the game came down to a final possession. After a jumper by Kadeem Jack gave Rutgers a 74-73 lead with 11.1 seconds remaining, USF had a chance to win the game with one shot. Inbounding the ball under their own basket with 4.9 seconds to play, the Bulls gave the ball to Rudd who missed a jumper in the paint. John Egbunu (Nigeria) missed the put-back attempt and USF lost its sixth consecutive game.
“We beat them in almost every statistical category. It just comes down to a couple of plays here and there. There was a run they (Rutgers) had late in the game, but our guys didn’t fold.”
USF shot 45.5 percent from the field including a season-best 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from 3-point range. Rutgers shot 39.3 percent from the field and 31.6 percent (6-of-19) from beyond-the-arc. Both teams shot exceptional from the free throw line with the Bulls at a season-best 95.7 percent (18-of-21) and the Scarlet Knights at 90.9 percent (20-of-22).
Egbunu and sophomore forward Zach LeDay (The Colony, Texas) joined Rudd in double figures. Egbunu finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four blocks while LeDay had 10 points and four boards.
Jack scored 20 points for Rutgers along with J.J. Moore. The Scarlet Knights had just four turnovers for the game while USF had 11.
The Bulls will next be in action on Tuesday at Houston at 8:30 p.m. ET. USF’s remaining home game is on Saturday, March 8 at 2 p.m. against Temple.
SOURCE: USF Athletics