Simply put, South Florida isn't good enough to finish off the best teams in the Big East.
The Bulls showed as much against Wednesday night when they faded down the stretch after being in position to pull a major upset on the road.
South Florida was within one point of No. 4 Pittsburgh, 45-44, with just over nine minutes to go but wound up losing 67-55. The Bulls (8-19, 2-12) are winless in nine games against ranked teams this season.
South Florida has failed to execute in big situations all season and was again hurt by its inability to perform with the game on the line. Down 46-44, South Florida had three chances to tie or take the lead but was called for offensive fouls on consecutive possessions before Shaun Noreiga missed a layup following a steal with 7:41 remaining. Pitt then went on a 14-2 run to increase its lead to 14 points.
"You never know when the turning point of a game is going to be," South Florida coach Stan Heath said. "We had our chance and didn't take advantage. Against one of the best teams in the country, you're not going to get many opportunities and you've got to capitalize on them."
South Florida will get another shot at a ranked team along with a chance to snap its five-game losing streak Saturday night when it hosts No. 9 Georgetown (20-6, 9-5). The Hoyas had their eight-game winning streak ended by No. 13 Connecticut on Wednesday night.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: There is little to get excited about as South Florida trudges along toward a 20-loss season, which it can clinch Saturday against Georgetown. However, G Shaun Noreiga is playing well of late. He led the team in scoring for a second straight game Wednesday with 11 points after the sophomore had a career-high 23 in a loss to Notre Dame on Feb. 12. Noreiga, who is averaging just 5.3 points a game, had gone nine straight games without reaching double figures.
--F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick cooled off as he had six points and two rebounds in 26 minutes. He had averaged 10.8 points and 7.4 rebounds in the previous five games after averaging 3.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in the first 21 games of the season.
--F Augustus Gilchrist scored 10 points despite being limited to 19 minutes because of foul trouble. That was an encouraging sign as he had averaged just 7.4 points and shot 25 percent from the field in the previous five games. Gilchrist leads the Bulls with an 11.8 point a game average.
--South Florida's big men were manhandled on the glass as Pittsburgh held a 40-18 rebounding advantage, including 26-9 in second half. G Hugh Robertson led the Bulls with seven rebounds and no one else had more than three.
--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: 9 -- South Florida is 0-9 this season against ranked teams.