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USF ready to play Louisville

Just five days after the South Florida men’s basketball team’s 59-54 fall to No. 13 Syracuse, another nationally ranked opponent rolls into Tampa to face the Bulls. As the Big East has nine teams — more than half the conference — ranked in the AP Top 25 poll, it’s probably something Coach Stan Heath should get used to.

USF will hit the court against No. 24 University of Louisville at 7 p.m. tonight at the USF Sun Dome, amid a five-game stretch in which the Bulls will face four nationally ranked opponents — a stretch Heath said he’s not necessarily looking forward to.

“It’s daunting,” he said. “You can’t get caught up looking ahead or you’ll worry yourself to death. To be honest with you, I know we play Louisville, and I think we play DePaul. And then I really don’t know, and I really don’t want to know.”

One USF player with a different perspective, however, is freshman Eladio Espinosa.

Espinosa, who’s seen an increased role on the court, said he looks forward to the challenge that the Big East conference brings.

“Man, I love it,” he said. “Playing these teams that are ranked is something that’s exciting. A lot of these teams think they can just come down here and win, but I’m ready to play and prove them wrong.”

The Bulls (5-8, 0-1) will certainly get a chance to prove doubters wrong against the
9-3 Cardinals.

Louisville is coming off a 74-71 victory over in-state rival University of Kentucky and is led by perhaps the best forward core in the Big East.

Freshman Samardo Samuels and Terrance Williams and junior Earl Clark lead the Cardinals in scoring, averaging 13.8, 12.3 and 12.8 points per game, respectively.

“We’re preparing ourselves on defense because (Louisville’s) offense can score a lot of points,” Heath said.

Espinosa will likely be matched against one of these three forwards.

The freshman started the first game of the season for USF, but was benched by Heath.

However, Espinosa has earned his way back onto the court, and Heath said he will start tonight.

Espinosa said he attributes his return to his defense.

“It’s crazy, because as a team we actually score by using our defense to create our offense,” he said. “It’s kind of weird to say, but that’s really where I spend most of the time in practice.”

While the Bulls are at the bottom of nearly every offensive statistic in the Big East, they’re giving up only 63.1 points per game. Heath said he hopes that statistic will instill confidence in his young team.

“I think our team learned some lessons in our last game,” he said. “We can’t be in awe or read the name on our opponent’s jersey.”