The Bulls reached the halfway point at 9-3 and possessing the best defense in the Big East.
Yes, they knew they had accomplished nothing at that point and the road loss on Feb. 4 to the Hoyas served only as an exclamation point, but they were ready to push forward.
"We've got the back nine of this league, and it is a little bit harder than the front nine we've had," Heath said to his local newspapers. "We've done more than everyone expected us to do, but there's still a lot more that we need to do."
The Bulls entered the second half of the year knowing it was them against the world.
"Right now, they're saying, 'Is it all a fluke?'" junior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who hit clutch shots in the second half of the Bulls' last win against Providence, told the Tampa Times. "They're wondering, 'Are they going to be able to keep it going?" with the tougher half of the schedule that we have. I think that's going to be a motivation for us to keep going well and prove some of those guys wrong."
This is just the second time since joining the Big East that the Bulls have found themselves in position to earn an NIT bid and possible an NCAA bid. The team is thinking NCAA, not NIT.
"They want it. I know our seniors want it. Everybody on the team would like to play in the postseason and would love to play in the NCAA tournament," Heath said. "It's too early, but every game is huge in order to get there ... In the back of my head, I would feel very comfortable if we duplicated what we just did in the first nine. That may be even more than we need to do, but I would feel very comfortable with that."
They're not morning people
--USF apparently is not an early-rising group. Scheduled to play a morning game at Georgetown, the Bulls had a 7 a.m. wakeup and 7:30 a.m. breakfast, then went on to lose by 30, the most one-sided loss of the year.
--The Bulls' secret to success is quite easy to figure out and that is to take care of the basketball. They are 1-7 when they have more than 15 turnovers and 12-2 when they have fewer than 15. "We did the same thing against Marquette . We had 22 in that game. When we've had losses, that's typically the magic number that sticks out for us," coach Stan Heath told the Tampa Tribune.
BY THE NUMBERS: 15 -- The number of points scored by F/C Augustus Gilchrist to be the only double-figure scorer for the Bulls as they lost by 30 to Georgetown, their worst Big East loss ever.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've put ourselves in position to maybe be a blip in the discussion. We need to do a lot more work. We need some major wins." -- Coach Stan Heath, quoted in the Tampa Times, on their chances for an NCAA bid.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Pittsburgh , Feb.8
KEY MATCHUPS: South Florida is the lowest-scoring team in the Big East but makes up for it by being the stingiest, allowing about 60 a game. Georgetown , however, rocked the Bulls for 76 points in the last outing. The Bulls are tough on the 3-point shot, which is a Pitt strength, and figure to give G Ashton Gibbs some trouble. Again, Georgetown found some answers against the Bulls. The game matches the top two marksmen in the Big East, Pitt's Nassir Robinson leading at 61.2 percent on his field goals and USF senior F Ron Anderson Jr. hitting 59 percent of his.
--at Providence , Feb. 11
KEY MATCHUPS: This is a quick rematch between these teams, South Florida having taken the first meeting at home on Jan. 29, 81-78. The Bulls must find a way to stop Friar freshman LaDontae Henton, who went off for a career-high 33 points in that game. Providence is a much tougher team to defeat at home than on the road. The Bulls, who had won six of eight before losing to Georgetown on Feb. 4, put five players into double figures in the first meeting with the Friars.
FUTURES MARKET: Junior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick originally signed with Georgia Southern and seemed destined to play there until the school changed coaches, opening the door for FSU to offer him the last scholarship it had. It was the school he wanted to attend in the first place and was thrilled when the offer came and has been paying it back. Now, halfway through his junior year, he has emerged as a key player for the Bulls and they are looking forward to him finishing his career in high gear.
--F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick comes off the bench but is putting in a strong bid for the Bulls' Player of the Year honors. Through Feb. 5, he ranked second in the conference in 3-point shooting at 46.3 percent and sat just outside the top 10 in rebounding at 6.9 a game.
--Senior F/C Augustus Gilchrist was the last Bull to lead the team in scoring in two consecutive games, and you have to go back to Nov. 16 and 19 for that. He was the leading scorer against Georgetown and now has a chance to repeat the feat against Providence .