Heath: We have to learn how to win

USF looks like a team that has be demoralized by a long season of narrow misses, seven losses of six or fewer points and 15 of 18 losses being 10 or less. Coming off a near upset of Marquette, where USF blew a 16-point lead and lost, 59-58, the Bulls responded by coming out flat and were routed by No. 8 Notre Dame, 78-55.

It is a question that can stimulate some debate. Does a narrow, heart-breaking defeat have a longer-lasting effect on a team than does being walloped in a game?

South Florida found an answer to that question.

Beaten by 23 points at Syracuse on Feb. 5, the largest margin of defeat for the Bulls this season, USF came back and nearly upset Marquette, blowing a 16-point lead and losing, 59-58.

The reaction to that loss was the exact opposite of the reaction to the Syracuse loss: Coming out flat and being blown out by No. 8 Notre Dame, 78-55, on Feb. 12.

Coach Stan Heath saw the Notre Dame rout to be a direct reaction to the disappointment of losing to Marquette.

"That's just a sign of immaturity. Just a lack of maturity," Heath said. "You can't fix what happened yesterday. All you can do is think you've got an opportunity today and say I'm going to take advantage of it and play my best, I'm going to make something positive out of it. That was disappointing.

"I think that comes down a little bit of maybe really not having that total leadership involved in the team where there's guys in the locker room rallying the troops and keeping everybody moving forward. It's something that we've got to fix."

It is not an easy fix, for it goes to the very fiber of the team and, in this case, it is a team that has be demoralized by a long season of narrow misses, seven losses of six or fewer points and 15 of 18 losses being 10 or less.

"We have to learn how to win," Heath said. We have only one senior. If we learn to win close games it Will Do a lot for our future."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Former USF G Dominique Jones, the first Bulls player to be an NBA first-round draft pick, recently underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot. Jones is averaging 2.3 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 18 games in his rookie season for the Dallas Mavericks.

--South Florida had not drawn more than 4,510 before Notre Dame drew 6,104 fans in Tampa. According to the South Bend Tribune, the Bulls were not ranked last in the league in attendance due to a lack of marketing.

"Billboards along the interstate from Tampa International Airport up to campus highlight that all tickets cost just $8 and that kids are admitted free. In contrast, the least-expensive ticket for a Notre Dame game at Purcell Pavilion runs $15," said the paper.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- South Florida is 0-8 this season against ranked teams.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you're up 16, there's no way you're supposed to let a team come back and win." -- South Florida PG Anthony Crater after losing to Marquette.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

GAME PREVIEW:

--at Pittsburgh, Feb. 16

KEY MATCHUPS: Tough week to try to find your footing. The Bulls don't have the manpower to compete with the Big East elite, especially in one of the toughest venues in America for visiting teams. South Florida might be able to battle Pitt on the backboards, which is a step in the right direction, with Augustus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr. They are, however, the lowest-scoring team in the conference against the second stingiest defense.

--vs. Georgetown, Feb. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: The Hoyas have been streaking toward the finish line and it doesn't matter where they play. They have won at Rutgers, Seton Hall, Villanova and Syracuse in their last four road games. G Austin Freeman is one of the top scoring guards in the conference and averages almost 19 points a game and Chris Wright has become one of the most effective point guards in the conference. The Bulls don't have the offense to match Georgetown's firepower, even at home.

FUTURE'S MARKET: About all that is left for South Florida to look forward to is to be getting ready for the Big East tournament, where they can perhaps pull off an upset or two. "At this point of the season we're excited about playing there," said Coach Stan Heath. "It's our opportunity to get to the NCAA Tournament. It's a longshot, but we have to take it. So right now we have to win some games (down the stretch) and improve our seeding. The better your seeding, the better your chances are."

PLAYER NOTES

--F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick finished with a career-high 16 points and a game-high 13 rebound in the disappointing loss to Marquette.

--PG Anthony Crater plays on a team that has trouble winning and that ranks next-to-last in scoring in the Big East but he has been one of the premier points guards in the league, ranking fourth with 5.58 assists per game.


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