It might be cliche to say there is no substitute for experience. However, it is a cliche because it is true.
South Florida coach Stan Heath believes a lack of senior leadership is part of the reason why his team has lost eight of its last 10 games. The Bulls fell again Jan. 20, dropping a 71-62 decision at Rutgers.
South Florida (7-13, 1-6 Big East) scored the first five points of the second half to take a 30-25 lead but failed to hold it, falling to 0-8 on the road this season.
The Bulls have only one senior on their roster.
"Rutgers' experience showed in this game, especially down the stretch," Heath said. "When you have a veteran team, you keep your poise, and we struggled with that, especially on the road. We've been lacking that this season, especially on the road."
The road gets no easier for South Florida, though, as it visits No. 21 West Virginia (12-5, 3-2) on Jan. 23.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: South Florida is 0-6 against West Virginia since joining the Big East at the start of the 2005-06 season. The Mountaineers' average margin of victory has been 11.3 points, and they notched a 69-50 road victory over the Bulls last season.
--South Florida's perimeter defense has been solid for the most part this season, as the Bulls are allowing opponents to shoot 33.1 percent on 3-point tries. However, South Florida allowed Rutgers point guard James Beatty to hit three consecutive 3-pointers early in the second half Jan. 20, and that turned the Bulls' 30-25 lead into a 34-30 deficit. The Bulls never led again. Rutgers shot 53 percent from beyond the arc, connecting on eight of 15.
--USF is awaiting the completion of the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center, a facility that will include both a men's and women's practice gymnasium along with support facilities including locker rooms and lounges, video/film rooms, meeting rooms, athletic training, strength training and equipment management facilities.
--USF might be losing regularly, but the Bulls are playing virtually everyone close. Of the first 12 losses, 11 have been by nine or fewer points.
BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- According to CollegeRPI.com, South Flordia has the ninth-strongest schedule in the country, which could indicate the Bulls are closer to being a successful team than the won-lost record may suggest.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is a tough league. You've got to fight every time. We're trying to push harder and harder, but we've just got to get over that hump. Once we get over that hump we can get some momentum and try to go on a little streak. We've just got to get that first win." -- South Florida F Augustus Gilchrist before beating Providence for the season's first Big East victory.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME:
--at West Virginia, Jan 23
KEY MATCHUPS: South Florida is a better team than its record, the losses mounting mainly because the Bulls have not yet figured out how to close a game. They lost a double-overtime game to BYU, lost in overtime to Big East power Connecticut, lost by five to Kent State, seven to Cleveland State and recently dropped a tough decision to Cincinnati. The Bulls will try to turn C Augustus Gilchrist loose inside and he has really come on after sitting out a suspension, matching up with WVU's Deniz Kilicli in a physical battle. WVU's defense and home court advantage may tip the scales in the Mountaineers' favor.
FUTURE'S MARKET: The Bulls were not very prolific scoring through the early part of the schedule as they tried to establish themselves, sometimes without star F Augustus Gilchrist. As the season rolls on they may become more of a force thanks to the play of junior PG Anthony Crater. He seemed to find himself in league play and had back-to-back career highs in assists against Villanova (eight) and Louisville (10). He followed that up with six assists and only two turnovers against Providence. A game before that Crater broke out offensively as he hit four 3s against No. 4 Connecticut to finish with a career-high 14 points, indicating his all-around game may be ready to blossom.
--G Jawanza Poland had 11 points against Rutgers to run his streak of double-digit scoring games to four, but he also made a critical mistake. Poland missed a tomahawk dunk attempt with four minutes left and South Florida trailing 57-50. The Bulls never got closer. On the plus side, Poland has made 16 consecutive free throws.
--F Augustus Gilchrist had a near perfect night offensively Jan. 20, as he made five of six field-goal attempts and four of four free throws to finish with 14 points. It was his eighth game in a row in double digits. He was averaging 15.1 points a game in that span.