Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bulls Open Big East Play and Give #11 Syracuse a Scare

By JC De La Torre

The USF Bulls (5-8) opened up their Big East schedule after an extremely disappointing non-conference performance this season, fell behind double digits in the second half against #11 Syracuse (14-1) but showed some grit, rallying to within three points late in the game before succumbing to the Orange 59-54.

With 11:02 left in the first half and only a 1 point lead, the Orange ended the first half on a 22-7 run to give them a little breathing room going into halftime where the Orange led 35-19. The Bulls spent the majority of the second half trying to whittle down that Syracuse lead, going on little 4 and 5 point runs before Syracuse would answer with their own score. Dominique Jones dunk with 3:19 left in the game pulled USF within 3 points of Syracuse, 55-52. After the teams exchanged scores, Jonny Flynn's miss gave USF the ball with 1:03 left in the game, down by 3 points. USF ran down the shot clock to 33 seconds before Dominique Jones fired up a three pointer that missed, Eric Devendorf rebounded for Syracuse and was fouled by Chris Howard. Devendoft made both ends of the 1-and-1 to give the Orange a 59-54 lead, the Bulls would miss two shots in the closing seconds and that was the ball game, Syracuse escapes the Sun Dome with a tougher than expected victory.

Jones led the Bulls with 17 points and 5 rebounds, while Mobolaji Ajayi had 15 points, 12 boards, and a blocked shot. Andy Rautins led the Orange with 14 points while going 4 of 8 from three point land.

Despite the loss, it was an encouraging effort from the Bulls against one of the Big East powers. After getting pummelled by the likes of Wright State, Niagara and Oral Roberts during a four game losing streak where they didn't face a ranked opponent, it looked like the Bulls were in no shape to be competitive in one of college basketball's best conferences.

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