The stage had been set, the lights were dimmed and the USF mens basketball team began its 2012-13
season in front of an initially raucous home crowd. The team, however, seemed unable to match the passion of its home crowd and wasted an opportunity to snatch a big win to start the year.
While there were the problems that were expected entering the season the Bulls were out-rebounded 45-26 there were also uncharacteristic issues. There were defensive struggles, with the Bulls allowing 74 points and 50 percent shooting from the field, and bad three-point shooting on offense as the team finished five-of-14 from behind the arc.
Were obviously very disappointed. We didnt play well, coach Stan Heath said. They beat us in areas that bother me. They dominated the glass. They got most of the loose balls, the effort plays….One of the things that never happened tonight was really getting that crowd engaged because we didnt play well, we didnt perform.
After a season in which the Bulls overcame a slow out-of-conference start to grab an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, this season was tailor-made to avoid another slow start thanks to a favorable schedule and tougher opponents at home.
The Knights made sure a slow start was exactly what USF would get in 2012.
A 5-0 run to start the game was indicative of a rough first half that finished with USF facing a 16-point deficit in front of a crowd of 7,717 the largest non-conference game crowd the Bulls have seen since joining the Big East in 2005 that dwindled later in the game.
Though it is just the start of a long season, the Bulls will likely need as many resume-building wins as possible in non-conference play to lower pressure when entering the conference season, in which the Bulls may not be as fortunate as they were last season when the conference was weaker.
With an easier non-conference schedule comes fewer chances for quality wins. This is the case for the Bulls, who will likely have three more chances for big non-conference wins against Georgia and Oklahoma State, and a January rematch with the Knights.
The Bulls take the court again this weekend when they play three games in three nights at the USF Invitational against Maryland Eastern Shore, Loyola-Chicago and Western Michigan three winnable games that will likely get the team to 3-1.
With the Bulls likely to be battling for a spot in the NCAA Tournament late in the season, the team may come to regret a wasted opportunity on opening night that could leave it on the outside looking in at seasons end.
Additional reporting by Adam Fenster.