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Bulls can't close deal
A Big East road victory is within reach - until the second half.
By Darryl Mellema, Special to the Times
Published February 10, 2008
USF's Kentrell Gransberry, who scored 18 and had 14 rebounds, shoots in front of the outstretched arm of DePaul's Wesley Green.
ROSEMONT, Ill. - One of these games, USF will be able to hold a lead in a Big East game and claim its first win in league play.
But that's going to have to wait.
Despite racing to an early lead, dominating the first half and holding a lead for nearly three-quarters of Saturday's game at DePaul, the Bulls fell again, 69-61.
The loss is USF's 10th straight and keeps the Bulls winless in Big East road games. In its three seasons in the league, USF is 0-22 in conference road games.
Not all of the losses have been blowouts. But at key times, breakdowns cost the Bulls (10-14, 1-10) once again.
"We're trying to learn how to win," coach Stan Heath said. "We're trying to learn how to play for 40 minutes. We're trying to learn how to get that key defensive stop and that key defensive rebound when we need it."
DePaul (10-13, 5-6) hasn't played much better this season. The win snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Blue Demons shot 23 percent in the first half. Late in the half, USF led by 16 and the halftime margin was 32-21 in favor of the Bulls.
"The first half was exactly what we wanted," Heath said. "We played at a good tempo and got it in to the big guy (Kentrell Gransberry)."
The USF center finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds and was key inside during the opening half. But his influence diminished as teammates failed to get him involved in the second half.
Asked how many times he tried to get his team to find its inside presence, a hoarse Heath said, "You hear my voice?"
Gransberry and his teammates kept the lead for much of the second half, but slowly the margin ebbed.
DePaul slowly began to cut into the lead as a pair of Draelon Burns 3-pointers keyed a surge that brought the Blue Demons to within 35-31. Burns, who scored just two in the first half, finished with a game-high 22.
"(Heath) was talking about us finishing strong and told us we only had 20 minutes left," Gransberry said. "When they made a run, we had to fight back."
USF reopened its margin but DePaul engineered a 12-point run midway through the half. Will Walker made a 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Blue Demons ahead for the first time. That shot ended a nine-point run and put DePaul up 54-48. The Blue Demons never trailed again.
The clincher came with 1:31 left. DePaul had three shots at the basket and Burns finished the sequence by scoring. He completed the three-point play and put the Demons ahead 63-56.