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College basketball

Bulls dig hole, fail to rally

MICH. ST. 65, USF 56: A 22-4 deficit proves too much to overcome vs. the No. 15 Spartans.

By DARRYL MELLEMA
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002


EAST LANSING, Mich. -- It's one thing to spot your opposition an 18-point lead during the first 11 minutes. It's another to fall that far behind on the road to a Top 25 team with a 34-game non-Big Ten home win streak. South Florida fell behind No.15 Michigan State 22-4 Saturday and did not recover, falling 65-56. "The first couple of minutes hurt us a lot," USF sophomore Brian Swift said. "We were trying to fight back, fight back the whole game. But we just couldn't do it."

USF (5-3) missed its first 13 shots during the first 11 minutes. "Overall, I thought our shot selection in the first few minutes was not as good as it needed to be," USF coach Seth Greenberg said."It took us four, five or six minutes for us to understand how physical the game was going to be."

Greenberg used two timeouts during the dry spell in an effort to jump-start his team. "It wasn't exactly Knute Rockne," Greenberg said."It was just that we had to continue to play hard. If we continue to play hard, it's a long game and you're going to get one run. With that much time left in the game, we had to just stay aggressive."

Will McDonald, who averaged 24 points and 13 rebounds in the previous two games, struggled during the opening minutes. He missed four shots but scored all four Bulls points, which came on free throws. "We were ready to go," McDonald said."I won't saywe missed a lot of shots. I missed a lot of shots. It wasn't dropping for me; shots that I usually make."

The Bulls made their first field goal with 8:32 left, a long 3-pointer by Marlyn Bryant. USF was 5-of-30 in the first half and trailed 33-17. "We knew that was nothing to come back from," McDonald said.

USF started quickly in the second half. Jimmy Baxter (10 points) scored his first points 3:30 in. He was late for practice last week and did not start Saturday's game. "He just overslept," Greenberg said."It wasn't malicious. (Baxter's) a great kid. It's just one of those things. He walked in late, and that's the rule."

Greenberg said he planned to leave Baxter out until the first TV timeout (four minutes into the game). But Brandon Brigman committed his second foul during that time. Twice early in the second half, the Bulls cut the lead to 10, five minutes in at 38-28 and with seven minutes left at 52-42. Each time, Michigan State reopened the lead.

"I felt the casualness that we came out with in the second half is something that we can't have, especially against good teams," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said."We're not rebounding as strong, and yet I thought we played pretty good against a team that I consider to be very good."

McDonald recovered from his poor start to score 15 and had six rebounds. Swift scored 11 of his 15 during the second half.

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