The Sun Dome featured its largest crowd of the season Wednesday night with 6,417 people watching as defending national champion Louisville came to town. However, the result wasn’t close to what Bulls fans may have been hoping for.
A hearty showing of Cardinals fans were in attendance, and to their delight, the Cardinals handily beat the Bulls in a deflating 86-47 game.
“This will certainly go down as a game that I want to forget as fast as possible,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “They dictated and did whatever they wanted to do and we didn’t have any answers.”
The student section began the game nearly full with the looming opportunity of a big upset. But by the time the second half resumed, front row seats were up for the taking. USF struggled in every aspect of its game, especially on offense.
The Bulls couldn’t keep pace with the Cardinals, only scoring 22 points in the first half compared to the Cardinals’ 45. The inability to keep up was visibly frustrating for the team, and it looked as though players had mentally checked out. Senior forward Victor Rudd admitted that he fell victim to letting the score affect his body language.
“It’s hard, down 40. I don’t think I’ve ever lost by this much of a margin,” Rudd said.
The Bulls finished the game with 23 turnovers, which is 10 more than their previous game against the No. 19 Cincinnati Bearcats. A surprising source of turnovers were from baseline inbound passes – a relatively simple play that caused the Bulls frustration throughout the game.
“We haven’t had that problem since we played SMU, but now it seems like we can’t check out the ball,” Rudd said. “It should be easy, but I don’t know what it is.”
Heath was slightly more critical than Rudd in his assessment of the team’s inability to complete the inbound pass, saying it was “just awful.” Heath also said that the Bulls were too focused on the title “defending national champion,” rather than who was on the court.
“I just thought that we were a little bit in awe,” he said. “You can’t play the jerseys, you have to play the guys inside the jerseys.”
Despite the score of the game, Rudd said the Bulls have the ability to beat Louisville and any team they face, but that ability needs to turn into reality.
“After practice, we sit in the locker room for hours talking about what we need to do and how we need to do it,” Rudd said. “It’s just (that) you have to bring it to the table. Everyone’s got to play hard.”
Despite USF’s struggle with turnovers and intensity, credit must be given to the Cardinals’ efficient play. Heath noted before Monday’s practice that the Bulls would have to pay extra attention to sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell, but they couldn’t slow him down as he amassed 14 points and 10 rebounds.
But Harrell wasn’t the only big contributor for the Cardinals, as they saw five of their players reach double-digit scoring on top of having every player come off the bench by the end of the game.
As USF fans cleared early and Cardinal red was still apparent in the stands, even NBA scouts left the Sun Dome before the final buzzer. Miami Heat scout, and former NBA player, Tim Hardaway was one of the exiting spectators.
The Bulls will travel to Memphis for a 2 p.m. tipoff Sunday before heading back to the Sun Dome two days later to face SMU.