It’s hard to believe it was a one-point game at halftime.
However, South Florida led throughout most of the first half against Louisville for the second time this season, and the No. 7 Cardinals used a second-half surge to pull away to an 80-54 victory Wednesday night at Freedom Hall.
“(Louisville) can really wear you down physically, and I think they did that in the second half,” said USF coach Stan Heath. “We let them have easy baskets, which should never happen. Once they got going it just seemed like it snowballed.”
Louisville went on a 29-5 run in the first 12 minutes of the second half that included five dunks and five three-point shots, en route to 11-for-24 shooting from the three-point range.
The Bulls (7-13, 2-6) turned the ball over 21 times and gave up 34 points off of giveaways.
“Just way too many turnovers, but that’s what Louisville does,” Heath said. “They just keep coming at you and keep coming at you.”
Sophomore guard Dominique Jones scored 15 points and USF shot 53.8 percent from the field in the first half and ended it trailing 33-32.
Jones was held scoreless until the 5:52 mark of the second half, picked up his fourth foul with 11:33 remaining and finished with 19 points.
“I thought what (Louisville) did to Dominique was to press him a little bit different,” Heath said. “If Dominique had the ball, they would send guys at him and double-team him. I thought they tried to fatigue him, and it worked in the second half.”
USF senior guard Jesus Verdejo, who scored 10 points, said it wasn’t Jones’ best performance.
“We needed to get Dominique the ball more,” Verdejo said. “I think he got tired because they were pressuring him a lot. We need to work on being more balanced and give him some more rest.”
The Cardinals (16-3, 7-0) had three players score in double figures and were led by junior Edgar Sosa’s 16-point effort. Freshman Samardo Samuels scored 14 and junior Earl Clark added 12.
“It was really tough to match up with those guys,” Verdejo said. “They have good balance offensively, but we needed to execute better defensively.”
With the loss, USF sits tied for 12th place in the Big East with St. John’s.
The Bulls face the Red Storm on the road Saturday, and Heath said it’s an important game for the team.
“I said to the guys that I’m not happy and I’m upset with a loss, but at the same time we have an important game against St. John’s,” he said. “We can’t carry this loss up there with us. We have to go up there and get a win.”