LOUISVILLE 85, USF 40: Turnovers and poor shooting add up to the Bulls' worst home loss.
TAMPA - A glitch of some sort caused WFTS-TV 28 to not begin showing Saturday's South Florida-Louisville game until the end of the first half.
Those Bulls fans hoping to catch the action on TV can consider themselves spared. That is, unless they watched the start of the second half.
No.10 Louisville annihilated short-handed USF 85-40 before 7,011 at the Sun Dome, and it might not have been as close as the score indicated. The Cardinals led 70-22 with 11:48 to go before pulling their foot off the throttle.
"I don't think we can play any better defensively," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We're so focused at the defensive end. We just came out and we were loaded for bear."
The 45 points was the biggest home margin of defeat for USF and one point shy of the school-record margin of defeat, 111-65 on Dec.4, 1987, at Syracuse. Louisville (11-1, 2-0) gobbled up USF (6-6, 0-1), and the Bulls provided scant resistance, forking over 15 first-half turnovers and falling behind 40-15 at intermission.
"What,' is not really the issue here with me, it's "Why?"' USF coach Robert McCullum said. "Obviously we stunk. Why? I don't really know.
"I wish I could put a finger on it. (The 45-point margin) had more to do with our guys just playing poorly (than pressure defense)."
Louisville's suffocating, lock-down, half-court defense - the Cardinals mixed in some fullcourt pressure in the first half - shackled USF. And when Louisville didn't force a missed shot or turnover, the Bulls frequently gave it back on their own.
"When we had committed 10 turnovers, seven of the 10 were (traveling calls) when the ball was already across half-court," McCullum said.
Before the half was over both teams had inserted seldom-used walk-ons, though USF's, Alton Darling, was out of necessity. The Bulls had eight scholarship players in the absence of guards Marlyn Bryant, who tore an ACL on Thursday in practice, and James Holmes, who has a sprained ankle.
"That's not an excuse to go out there and get thumped," USF guard/forward Jimmy Baxter said. "We played as bad as I've seen at South Florida. We just kept turning the ball over."
In the first half the Cardinals held USF scoreless for a 7-minute, 19-second stretch and limited the Bulls to two points over a span of 11:23 to extend their lead from 6-4 to 31-6. For a while it looked like USF might accrue more traveling calls than points.
Up 25 at intermission, Louisville poured it on, outscoring USF 30-7 to open the second half.
Louisville established school records for largest victory margin and fewest points allowed in a Conference USA game. The Cardinals, who notched wins against two No.1 teams in December at Florida (73-65) and Kentucky (65-56), did what they wanted on offense for the first three-fourths of the game.
The lopsided score is reflected in the statistics. Taquan Dean (game-high 16 points) and Larry O'Bannon (14) had hot hands for Louisville, as both made four of five 3-point attempts. The Cards made 10 3-pointers and 31 of 61 field goals, 50.8 percent, and hardly broke a sweat, as no one played more than 23 minutes.
USF made 13 of 49 shots (26.5 percent) and needed a late flurry to avert its lowest point total (36 vs. Marquette on Jan.30, 1997) and worst margin of defeat. Bradley Mosley's two free throws with 19 seconds left set the final margin. Mosley led USF with eight points.
The Bulls played for the first time since Dec.30, when they rallied from 14 down midway through the second half to beat South Alabama and win the USF Holiday Classic. USF has six days to regroup before playing Saturday at Saint Louis, the first of three consecutive road games.
"The only thing we can do is bust our butt and try to get better," said Baxter, who will be in Nashville today to receive the NCAA Award of Valor for his heroic effort in saving the lives of two motorists a year ago. "This will make us work harder."