Nothing is easy in the Big East, and the Bulls have to be looking at Tuesday's loss to Notre Dame as one that got away. To make up for it, they should be thinking about stealing one of their next two.
A team that was playing great defense before the Big East started is suddenly giving up big numbers. That has to stop. The Bulls' poor shooting cost them a chance against Louisville in the opener, but the offense came around Tuesday night. South Florida put up 73 points and shot nearly 53 percent from the floor.
True, not every team has a player like Notre Dame's Luke Harangody. And double true that USF is playing without its best player, Augustus Gilchrist.
But sometimes the truth hurts. And playing No. 7 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome and then playing No. 8 West Virginia can hurt a lot if a team is not prepared.
The loss to the Irish proves that when the Bulls are clicking on offense, they can play with the best of the Big East. Now they have to play their best on both ends of the floor if they want to steal one against the elite of the conference.
USF will add guard Anthony Crater, who has been sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules, to the active roster for the Syracuse game. He joins the team after transferring from Ohio State in 2008.
NOTRE DAME 74, SOUTH FLORIDA 73: Luke Harangody scored 36 points as the Fighting Irish (13-3, 2-1 Big East) fought off a second-half comeback at South Florida.
Down by as many as 13 points midway through the second half, South Florida (10-4, 0-2) pulled ahead 71-69 on Toarlyn Fitzpatrick's tip-in with 1:48 to play. But Harangody answered at the other end to tie the game, and Tyrone Nash gave Notre Dame a 73-71 lead with a pair of free throws with 57 seconds left.
South Florida's Mike Mercer tied the game with jump shot with 33 seconds left.
After a Notre Dame timeout, Mercer fouled Harangody with just 1.9 seconds left. The preseason conference player of the year made one of two free-throw attempts. After a USF timeout, Chris Howard was unable to inbound the ball for the Bulls.
Dominique Jones led the Bulls with 26 points.
--What you see may be what you get, unless you are a coach.
Take South Florida's Stan Heath, who sees far more in his Bulls than what is on the court at present.
Injuries have robbed him of two key players -- 6-foot-10 forward Gus Gilchrist and 6-10 center Alex Rivas. Both are out until later this month, Rivas coming off leg surgery, Gilchrist off an ankle sprain.
Heath has added transfer guard Anthony Crater to his roster and can hardly wait for the other two big men to come back, saying his team will be "remarkably different" by the end of the Big East season.
"Crater will give us a speed merchant that can really make plays out there on the court," Heath said in the St. Petersburg Times. "Hopefully in the next few weeks, we will be at full strength and we can hang in there in the meantime."
That, of course, isn't easy in a conference like the Big East. Losing big people who can rebound can be a killer, as they found out against Louisville in the opener.
"We needed everyone to beat Louisville," forward Jarrid Famous said.
That was the last word on the subject. In fact, you might say it was Famous' last word.
--G Anthony Crater, a transfer from Ohio State, will begin playing this month with the Bulls and should add some flash and speed in the backcourt. He is expected to debut against Syracuse on Jan. 10. The sophomore averaged 1.2 points in 13.1 minutes in 10 games for the Buckeyes last season.
--USF had two players record double-doubles in a loss to Louisville on Dec. 30. Junior college transfer F Jarrid Famous had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
ON THE SPOT: In late December, the Bulls were among the NCAA Division I statistical leaders in scoring defense (26th), allowing just 58.6 points per game. But that number is on the rise thanks to the Big East. The Bulls gave up 73 points to Louisville last week and 74 to the Notre Dame on Tuesday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The Big East is a beast. There are no easy nights." -- Coach Stan Heath, quoted in the Tampa Tribune, on beginning conference play.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Coach Stan Heath doesn't have his Bulls ready to contend for the Big East title, but this is a much-improved team that has played strong defense in the early season. Only Louisville whipped up on USF, the other two losses each being by three points. Dominique Jones has proven to be a Big East star, and Chris Howard is quite capable at the point.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG Chris Howard, G Dominique Jones, G Mike Mercer, F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, F Jarrid Famous. Key Subs -- G Mike Burwell.
South Florida 69, San Francisco 49
South Florida 69, San Diego 60
Louisville 73, South Florida 52
Notre Dame 74, South Florida 73
at Syracuse, Sunday, Jan. 10
vs. West Virginia, Wednesday, Jan. 13
vs. Rutgers, Saturday, Jan. 16
at Cincinnati, Thursday, Jan. 20
IN FOCUS: Short-handed and small up front because of it, USF faces some tough tests until it gets its big players back. Rebounding against Notre Dame, Syracuse, West Virginia and Cincinnati is difficult when at full strength and South Florida is without two of its best rebounders.
--G Dominique Jones is putting aside all talk of a sophomore slump. Jones, who burst onto the scene as a freshman last year, has now scored at least 18 points in five of the Bulls' last six games. He led USF with 26 points on Tuesday. He was 9-for-20 from the floor in 40 minutes.
--Junior F Jarrid Famous, who leads the team with a 54.1 percent shooting average from the floor, made seven of 10 shots and finished with 14 points against Notre Dame. He had 12 points and 10 rebounds in the Bulls' Big East opener. He has five double-digit rebound games and four double-doubles.
--G Justin Leemow is leaving the team due to family and personal reasons, Heath said on the team's Web site. A sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y., Leemow was averaging 2.4 points, 1.25 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.3 rebounds in 12 games this season for the Bulls. In his two seasons at USF, he averaged 1.9 points.
--C Alex Rivas is recovering from surgery to replace rods in his legs and will play later this month.
--F Gus Gilchrist, a scoring force inside and out, is unable to play due to severely sprained ankle and will not return until later this month.
USF Mens Hoops: Getting Inside -1/8
Bulls Daily Top Stories
USF's top offense is stymied by TempleUSF picked up their second loss of the season as the Bulls fell to the Owls 46-30, as their offense was stifled. The Owls out played the Bulls to tie for the lead in the AAC East…
Bulls Daily12:16 AM
Bulls Daily Game Thread: USF vs. TempleCome jump inside the Bulls Daily message boards to chop it up about this evening square off between the South Florida Bulls and Temple Owls.
Bulls DailyYesterday at 3:03 PM
USF Is First to Offer Junior WR out of LargoLARGO, Fla. --- Calvin Lockett was without a single offer to start the week, and now holds five scholarship offers, including two out of the Big Ten.
Scout FootballYesterday at 2:26 PM
USF Commit Bruce Judson Sets Multiple VisitsIt's only been a couple of hours since they dished out an offer, but Minnesota has already found themselves in the official visit plans for Bruce Judson, a do-it-all South Florida…
Scout FootballThursday at 10:10 PM