Buckley can't find touch as Bulls suffer 6th straight loss

Bulls fall to Providence at home

Published March 1, 2007

TAMPA - For USF's four seniors, Wednesday's final home game was a microcosm of two seasons in the Big East: Like so many times, the Bulls held their own, pulling close late against a tough opponent, and like so many times, they fell frustratingly short.

Down 10 to Providence with three minutes to play, USF rallied to within one point with 44 seconds left, only to see the Friars pull out a 77-72 win, handing the Bulls their sixth straight loss.

Senior forward Melvin Buckley went 0-for-11 on 3-point attempts, including an airball on a pump-faked 3-pointer that could have tied the score with four seconds to play.

"It's a nightmare for a shooter, especially on a night like this where it's the last time I'm playing in front of this crowd," said Buckley, who went 4-for-19 overall and finished with nine points, his fewest in 22 games. "Shot after shot, it was in and out, in and out."

USF 12-17, 3-12 had been eliminated from contention for the Big East tournament but battled against Providence (18-10, 8-7), which is making a bid for the NCAA Tournament. Coach Robert McCullum said it was difficult to see Buckley leave the Sun Dome on a down note.

"It's not the way he wanted to go out, certainly not the way we wanted or needed him to go out," he said. "When your best shooter goes 0-for-11, that we still had a chance, it's a tribute to how our guys fought."

Two of the Big East's premier centers had huge games, with Providence's Herbert Hill getting 28 points and 16 rebounds; USF's Kentrell Gransberry had a career-high 25 points and 14 rebounds. Bulls forward McHugh Mattis had 11 points and 14 rebounds, energizing a Sun Dome crowd of 3,391.

USF rallied as freshman Solomon Bozeman hit three free throws with 1:33 left, then hit a 3 with 44 seconds left to cut the Friars' lead to 73-72. Providence got a putback by Jonathan Kale with 13 seconds left, and after Buckley's miss, guard Sharaud Curry scored a layup at the buzzer.

McCullum, who falls to 4-27 in Big East play, must wait to see if athletic director Doug Woolard will bring him back with two years left on his contract.

"How one person defines significant (improvement) could very well differ from another, and obviously it's not my decision to make," said McCullum, whose Bulls finish the season Saturday at DePaul.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3346.