There are some experts out there predicting that South Florida could actually make a few waves in the Big East this year. The Bulls haven't made a ripple since joining the Big East in 2005 -- their 11-58 overall record has given credence to those who question why they are in this conference in the first place.
In the first half Wednesday against Louisville, the Bulls showed why some of those positive predictions might be true. In the second half, however, they showed why those so-called experts are crazy.
The Bulls next play Tuesday against Notre Dame at the Sun Dome.
Notre Dame defeated Providence 98-73 Wednesday as All-America forward Luke Harangody had 19 points and 13 rebounds. The senior could finish his career as the Big East's all-time scoring and rebounding leader.
South Florida will have to get creative in slowing down Harangody. But it's on the offensive end where South Florida needs to heat up. You can't turn the ball over 21 times and shoot 38 percent in the Big East. Well, you can. You just won't win the game.
This is a big game for the Bulls even though it's only the second game of the Big East season. The Irish are one of the better teams in the conference, but Notre Dame isn't exactly Syracuse or UConn. The Bulls proved they hang with teams like this for a half on the road. Let's see if they can do it for an entire game at home.
LOUISVILLE 73, S. FLORIDA 52: The host Cardinals opened up the second half with a 20-3 run Wednesday to blow open what had been a 32-31 halftime lead in the Big East opener for both schools.
USF (10-3 overall, 0-1 Big East) kept things close in the first half, shooting 42 percent from the floor. But Louisville turned up the intensity in the second half, holding the Bulls to just 32 percent shooting in the second half. The Cardinals also scored 19 points off Bulls turnovers for the game.
Edgar Sosa had 16 points for the Cardinals (10-3, 1-0). Ryan Kardok had 17 points.
Junior Jarrid Famous (12 points, 10 rebounds) and freshman Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (11 points, 11 rebounds) led the Bulls.
--When South Florida went 2-0 in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, it marked the first time the school had gone 2-0 in a tournament since beating South Alabama and New Orleans in the 2003 USF Holiday Classic.
--G Mike Mercer set a career high when he scored 19 points against San Diego.
--G Dominque Jones continues to be one of the most prolific scorers in the conference, leading the Bulls at 18.6 points a game.
JANUARY AT A GLANCE: January will get off to a tough start for one of the improving teams in the conference -- its three games after Louisville are Notre Dame, at Syracuse, and back home against West Virginia. That's two top-10 teams in the Orange and Mountaineers. But, hey, you have to play them all and it's probably better early than late.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not looking for a dogfight. We're best when we jump out early." -- G Dominique Jones on the importance of this short-handed team getting off to quick starts.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Coach Stan Heath has been playing shorthanded, with a roster of only eight players, but he has his Bulls playing Big East defense and that is making a huge difference. The Bulls have not given up 70 points this season and rank fourth in the conference behind three defensive giants -- Pittsburgh, Georgetown and West Virginia. However, the biggest loss wasn't of a game but instead of a player, F Gus Gilchrist going down for at least a month. G Dominque Jones continues to establish himself as one of the league's top scorers and PG Chris Howard is taking care of the basketball.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG Chris Howard, G Dominque Jones, G Mike Mercer, F Toarlynn Fitzpatrick, F Jarred Famous. Key Subs -- G Justin Leemow.
South Florida 69, Central Florida 65
South Florida 69, San Francisco 49
South Florida 69, San Diego 60
Louisville 73, South Florida 52
Vs. Notre Dame, Tuesday, Jan. 5
At Syracuse, Sunday, Jan. 10
Vs. West Virginia, Wednesday, Jan. 13
Vs. Rutgers, Saturday, Jan. 16
ON THE SPOT: BJ Daniels will be the starting quarterback on Saturday when the South Florida football team takes on Northern Illinois in the International Bowl in Toronto. There has been no indication how long it will take Daniels, a 6-1 sophomore guard, to be ready to play basketball for the Bulls.
--Dominique Jones is one of the Bulls' top players and has already earned a Big East Player of the Week honor. But the junior guard struggled against the Cardinals, making just 2 of 6 shots and finishing with five points. Jones had scored at least 18 points in his last four games and was averaging 18.6 points. The Bulls need more than five points from him to compete in the Big East.
--Mike Mercer did a fine job replacing the injured Augustus Gilchrist in the non-conference schedule for the Bulls. He played 34 minutes against Louisville, making 2 of 7 shots for nine points. He did make 5 of 7 free-throw attempts.
--Augustus Gilchrist is a player to watch in the Big East this season, but no one will get to watch him until late January. The 6-10 sophomore is out with a sprained right ankle and will not play Tuesday against the Irish. He injured the ankle Dec. 7 during a practice.
USF Mens Hoops: Getting Inside - January '10
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