tampabay.com

Bulls earn win on cruise control

USF is feeling confident after another league victory.

By GREG AUMAN
Published January 25, 2007


TAMPA - The ease with which USF put away another conference win Wednesday night - even against an awful opponent - put it a little farther from last season's 1-15 Big East record and a step closer to the conference tournament in six weeks.

The Bulls 11-10, 2-5 led from the start, pulling out to a 33-15 advantage and never faltering, cruising past Rutgers 62-40 before a Sun Dome crowd of 3,961.

"It's a great feeling, one I hope to get used to. I can't say that I am," coach Robert McCullum said of his team leading by at least 18 for the entire second half. "(At halftime) I told them it was the best half of basketball that we've played ... on both ends of the floor. I'm not so sure this wasn't the best game we've played across the board."

Rutgers (8-12, 1-6) came in as the league's worst shooting team, and the Knights seemed intent on proving that. They shot 27.6 percent from the field, the worst by a Bulls opponent in more than a decade. Worse still, the Knights went 1-for-17 on 3-pointers.

The Bulls, meanwhile, shot 62.5 percent in the first half, getting 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting from guard Jesus Verdejo, returning as starter after three games on the bench. Center Kentrell Gransberry, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, set the tone in the first 1:22, putting Rutgers' Adrian Hill on the bench for the rest of the half with two fouls.

Ten days ago, the Bulls built a 25-point lead against Cincinnati, only to see it threatened by a 16-0 run in what ended up a 15-point win. There was no lapse Wednesday, as Rutgers never scored more than four points in a row.

"We know very well what happened (against Cincinnati), and we didn't want that to happen again," Gransberry said. "We wanted to not focus on the scoring, just play defense. To hold them 1-for-17 behind the 3-point line, the guys did a great job of contesting shots."

Ollie Bailey and JR Inman scored 10 each to lead Rutgers, which has lost five in a row. The final margin is the largest of any conference win in four seasons under McCullum.

USF's next two games are at home against far tougher competition: No. 15 Marquette on Sunday and No. 22 Notre Dame on Feb. 3. Wednesday's showing made the thought of an upset or two a little more realistic.

USF 62

Rutgers 40