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Breakthrough just out of Bulls' reach
By Ryan Ernst, Special to the Times
Published February 21, 2008
CINCINNATI - USF has plenty of experience at losing Big East games on the road. Since the Bulls entered the league in 2005, no team has lost more.
But few could sting as much as Wednesday's 52-51 loss to the Bearcats.
The Bulls (11-16, 2-12) had three potential winning attempts in the final five seconds. None found its mark.
"We certainly had our chances," coach Stan Heath said. "We had layups and shots and possessions in the last minute that I thought we'd cash in and get. Tough break for us."
With 37 seconds left, senior center Kentrell Gransberry made two free throws to cut the deficit to 52-51. After causing a turnover, USF turned the ball back over when Dominique Jones dribbled on the end line. After a Cincinnati miss, Jones penetrated again, only to miss a layup. Gransberry's tip missed, and the ball went out of bounds to the Bulls with 2.9 seconds remaining.
Jones' fadeaway baseline jumper at the buzzer was short.
"We got the ball to the guy we wanted," Heath said. "We were hoping to negotiate something better, but they defended well."
The Bearcats (13-12, 8-5) held Gransberry to seven points, more than 12 fewer than his average. Cincinnati rotated two centers, 6-foot-10 Adam Hrycaniuk and 6-11 Anthony McClain, on Gransberry. They played behind the 6-9 Gransberry when he posted up. When he caught the ball, the Bearcats double-teamed. He finished with 18 rebounds but was just 2-of-10 from the field.
"The whole team had to stop him," Hrycaniuk said. "Today all the talk was about Gransberry. Maybe I played a little harder."
Despite the limited production from their scoring leader, the Bulls led for most of the first half due in large part to Jones' strong play. The freshman guard routinely knifed his way through the defense, tallying 11 first-half points. He finished with 16. Jesus Verdejo led USF with 19.