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Bulls' road woes continue as comeback bid falls short

Despite trailing by as many as 15 in the first half, the Bulls crept to within three with just more than 13 minutes left.

By NICHOLAS TOLOMEO
Published January 18, 2007


MORGANTOWN, W.Va - USF lost its fifth consecutive road game, falling 69-58 to West Virginia on Wednesday at the WVU Coliseum.

The Bulls dropped to 10-9 and 1-4 in the Big East. McHugh Mattis got his fifth double double with 11 rebounds and 18 points, both game highs.

Despite trailing by as many as 15 in the first half, the Bulls crept to within three with just more than 13 minutes left in the second after a Jesus Verdejo basket. The Mountaineers (14-3, 4-2) responded with a 10-3 run to take a 53-43 lead.

"I was proud how our guys fought back and made a game of it," USF coach Robert McCullum said. "You expend so much energy to come back, especially against a team that has that kind of ball movement and is two deep at every position."

USF struggled with its free throws, connecting on only 9-of-20, including a second-half stretch of five misses in a row.

The Mountaineers threatened to put it out of reach early, going 5-for-8 from 3-point range, but the Bulls clamped down and limited them to 3-for-24 during the final 31 minutes.

"They were getting a lot of easy looks with the penetration and kick," Mattis said. "We started closing in a little bit harder and managed to limit their shots."

Kentrell Gransberry, held to one point in the first half, scored 10 in the second before fouling out with just more than two minutes remaining. Mattis, entering as the fifth-best shot blocker in the NCAA, rejected five to bring his season total to 77. Melvin Buckley shot 4-for-9 from 3-point range on his way to 17 points.

Both teams played true to form with Big East turnover leader USF (17.6 per game) giving up the ball 16 times against the Mountaineers' unconventional 1-3-1 zone defense. West Virginia, best in the Big East in protecting the basketball (11.5), limited its turnovers to five.

"It's a really good defense," Gransberry said. "They trap up the court, rotate and they do a really good job of getting their hands up and pushing."

West Virginia had lost back-to-back road games, including by 18 at Marquette. Frank Young led the Mountaineers with 16 points and Alex Ruoff added 12 in a game they never trailed.

W. Va. 69

USF 58