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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Bulls put scare into Cincy before Bearcats pull away

TAMPA — Playing against the first-place team in the American Athletic Conference, South Florida showed fight and resilience, but it wasn’t quite enough Saturday.

The Bulls were beaten 61-54 by No. 19 Cincinnati in front of 5,322 at the Sun Dome, but they showed promise in bouncing back from a listless performance against SMU with a much better showing against the Bearcats.

SMU ran circles around the Bulls on Wednesday, racing to 10-0 and 21-4 leads and won 71-54 in USF’s worst effort of the season.

USF (10-8, 1-4) was up to the task against the AAC’s lone remaining unbeaten, finding itself in a 47-47 tie with 8:39 to play, but the Bearcats (17-2, 6-0) closed much better.

“I thought we really competed in this game and we gave ourselves a chance to win but we just came up short,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “I can’t fault my guys’ effort and I can’t fault the effort they played with today. Hopefully it carries over, because if we build on this, we’ll win games.”

The Bulls weathered an early 9-2 deficit and trailed 30-26 at halftime before playing a tight second half.

Twice the Bulls took a second-half lead or tied the game, and twice Cincinnati reclaimed the momentum with a quick 3-pointer on its next possession.

“That’s a really good overall team,” Heath said of the Bearcats. “They have guys that give you six, seven or eight points and it all adds up.”

One of USF’s biggest miscues directly followed a timeout with 2:28 to play and the Bulls trailing 56-49. Cincinnati forward Justin Jackson held the ball on the wing and faked a handoff, before breaking toward the rim for a dunk.

“(Jackson) just tricked us,” Heath said. “He fakes a handoff, we went for it and he went the other way. It’s just one of those things where we got fooled a little bit. (Defender) Zach (LeDay) felt bad about it, but he was trying to play hard defense and he went for the fake.”

That play gave the Bearcats a nine-point lead, their largest of the second half.

“That’s probably what did it,” USF forward Victor Rudd said. “Something like that can’t happen late in the game. When it comes down to a tight game, we’ve got to play better defense than that. That was too easy.”

Guard JaVontae Hawkins contributed a career-high 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting for the Bulls. Rudd and John Egbunu also had double-figure points, with 12 and 10, respectively. Rudd was a rebound short of a double-double.

Sean Kilpatrick led the Bearcats with 18 points.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for USF, with defending national champion Louisville paying a visit to the Sun Dome on Wednesday night.

“It hurts to lose and we certainly need to get things going in the right direction with wins,” Heath said.

CINCINNATI (17-2) — Rubles 2-5 1-2 5, Thomas 3-4 4-4 10, Jackson 3-8 3-5 9, Guyn 3-4 0-0 8, Kilpatrick 7-17 2-3 18, Caupain 1-5 2-2 5, Sanders 2-6 0-0 6, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Nyarsuk 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 12-16 61.

SOUTH FLORIDA (10-8) — Brock 3-6 2-4 8, Rudd 5-13 2-2 12, LeDay 0-2 2-2 2, Allen Jr. 0-4 0-0 0, Egbunu 4-5 2-4 10, Heath 1-5 0-0 2, McLendon 0-1 0-0 0, Hawkins 6-9 1-2 15, Perry 1-6 3-4 5. Totals 20-51 12-18 54.

Halftime—Cincinnati 30-26. 3-Point Goals—Cincinnati 7-19 (Guyn 2-3, Sanders 2-4, Kilpatrick 2-9, Caupain 1-3), South Florida 2-9 (Hawkins 2-3, Allen Jr. 0-1, Brock 0-1, Rudd 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Cincinnati 30 (Caupain 6), South Florida 36 (Rudd 9). Assists—Cincinnati 12 (Rubles 5), South Florida 14 (Heath 6). Total Fouls—Cincinnati 14, South Florida 16. A—5,322.

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