Commentary | USF suffers embarrassing loss to defending national champion Louisville

adell@bradenton.comJanuary 23, 2014 

TAMPA

They came looking for a miracle and would've settled for less.

But what they saw was unacceptable.

It was the largest crowd to watch a basketball game at the Sun Dome this season, and USF didn't give the 6.400-plus fans a reason to return.

Their biggest wish was hoping the lights on the scoreboard would burn out.

Louisville scored 35 points off turnovers, forced 23 turnovers and had 13 steals.

So the 86-47 drubbing the Cardinals (17-3) handed USF (10-9) on Wednesday night at the Sun Dome is not a surprise.

"I felt we were a little bit in awe of them. You can't play the jerseys. You have to play the guys inside the jerseys," USF head coach Stan Heath said.

Louisville is the defending national champion, and USF is defending the rights of mediocre, which it failed to do.

"They dictated the game and did whatever they wanted to do. We didn't have any answers. Whatever shot they wanted they got," Heath said.

Unfortunately things could get worse.

This was the middle game of a three-game set in which USF faced nationally ranked Cincinnati and Louisville and visits Memphis on Jan. 26.

No one expected a sweep. Two competitive games would've sufficed.

Louisville has lost two key players off last year's national champs, but it keeps rolling. It is a basketball school. USF still hasn't found its athletic identity.

The Bulls have lost seven of nine since point guard Anthony Collins went down with an injury.

"I like to know what it would've been like with Anthony, but it is what it

is," Heath said.

The Bulls looked as if they just got together for a pickup game against Louisville, which traps all over the floor and contests every shot.

Under Rick Pitino, the Cardinals are the only team in America to rank among the top 10 in steals in each of the last three seasons and are third at 9.8 per game.

They caused the Bulls to turn the ball over 10 times in the first half when the Cardinals ran out to a 45-22 lead. The Sun Dome probably ran out of coffee to keep USF fans awake.

Louisville is third nationally in turnover margin (6.5 per game), which is a good reason the Cardinals are first nationally in scoring margin (20.6).

Pitino picks your pocket and eventually gets your heart.

One way to stay with Louisville is hit the 3-ball, but that is not USF's forte. The Bulls are shooting 26 percent from beyond the arc, which is like launching them with blindfolds.

Oh by the way, Louisville outshot USF 12-1 from 3-point land.

So you have to ask where this program is going.

Heath had his best recruiting class last year. The freshmen, particularly John Egbunu and Chris Perry, are among the most promising big men the Bulls have ever had, and freshmen guard Josh Heath could be special.

USF is not Kentucky or Louisville that gets freshmen only because the NBA says you must be out of a school for a year to play in its league.

But you can compete for an NCAA bid with kids who stay for three or four years.

"I saw frustration (in our players), absolutely, but we've got to continue to play every possession," Heath said. "Hopefully we can put this one behind us. You've got to be able to forget things and move past things whether it's a big win or a big loss."

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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