Louisville 80, USF 60
On Wednesday, the Bulls played their first game at the Sun Dome since a loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers on Jan. 9. The opponent was different.
The result was not.
The Bulls shot just 38 percent en route to losing their sixth straight game – 80-60 at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals (14-5, 4-2).
The Bulls (10-10, 1-6) managed to hurt themselves on both ends of the court. Coach Stan Heath was quick to acknowledge his team’s poor performance.
“There’s not that much to say. We flat out got our butts kicked,” Heath said. “We were outplayed, and I was very disappointed in the fact that we looked like a very tentative team in the first half.”
USF kept the game close – trailing 11-10 with 13 minutes remaining in the first half – but Louisville went on a 20-4 run that effectively put the game out of reach.
Sophomore forward Earl Clark started the Cardinals’ run by scoring 10 straight points. He finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.
“The funny thing is that it’s hard to figure out who comes off the bench and whose starting. They’ve got so many guys, I didn’t even know he came off the bench,” Heath said. “Earl’s a starter. He’s a quality player and he played terrific. He’s really a guy who caused a lot of problems with his length and athleticism.”
While the Bulls had another poor performance from their bench – reserves scored only 11 points on a combined 3-of-11 shooting from the field – the Cardinals bench thrived. Louisville coach Rick Pitino felt his team’s depth helped keep the Bulls offense out of rhythm.
“We played like the “old days” in terms of changing all of our defenses and just hammering them with every press we have because our depth is much better than (USF),” Pitino said.
The Bulls were led by senior center Kentrell Gransberry and freshman guard Dominque Jones. Gransberry scored 16 points in the first half and finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“Gransberry is as tough a basketball player as you’re going to face,” Pitino said. “He knows how to post up and he knows the postup game. He’s got a good future ahead of him at the next level.”
Jones – who was held scoreless in the second half of Sunday’s 69-52 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers – failed to get on the scoreboard in the first half against the Cardinals. However, Jones scored 15 points after the break.
“(Jones) is a good freshman,” Pitino said. “He’s one of the top freshmen in our conference. He’s still going to get better. He’s not great, but I’d certainly love to have him.”
The Bulls once again allowed mental mistakes to plague their game. USF shot 50 percent from the free-throw line. In comparison, Louisville shot 31-of-61 (51 percent) from the field as a team.
The Bulls are also in search of a fifth starter. With inconsistent play out of the power forward position, Heath has resorted to desperation in order to fill the spot.
“There’s no rhyme or reason why I picked my fifth starter today. There really wasn’t,” Heath said. “(Director of basketball operations) Tommy (Tonelli) asked me before the game and I looked out onto the court.”
With the loss, the Bulls fell into a tie for last place in the Big East Conference.