Louisville is still too big a hurdle

The Cardinals' depth overwhelms USF, which has lost six straight.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 24, 2008

TAMPA - USF has struggled against nearly everyone since joining the Big East, but no team has dominated the Bulls the way Louisville has.

The same was true Wednesday night, as a deep Cardinals team got up 28-12 early and cruised to an 80-60 win, handing the Bulls their sixth loss in a row - all by double digits - before an announced crowd of 4,781 in the Sun Dome.

"We flat-out just got our butts kicked," coach Stan Heath said. "I was very disappointed by the fact that we looked like a very tentative team in the first half. They did whatever they wanted to do: shoot shots, drive the ball against our defense, rebound it when they wanted it. It just wasn't what we were looking for."

In three seasons in the Big East, USF has taken five losses of 20 points or more; three of those five have come against Louisville. The team's current stretch of six straight losses by 10 points or more is unprecedented; in 37 seasons of USF basketball, there hasn't been another such streak longer than four games.

The Bulls (10-10, 1-6) have struggled to find so much as a fifth contributing player; with a minute left in the game, only two Bulls - center Kentrell Gransberry and guard Dominique Jones - had more than four points. Heath said Louisville (14-5, 4-2) was the deepest team USF has faced, and coach Rick Pitino said that was the difference.

"We thought these guys could play with us, five vs. five," Pitino said. "We went all out with three different presses, to try and play 10 vs. five. That's where we thought we had the edge. ...Our depth is much better than them."

Pitino was especially impressed with forward Terrence Williams, who had 10 assists in the first half in a show of unselfishness.

"He didn't attempt a shot. That's the impressive thing," Pitino said. "In today's world of instant gratification, that's an amazing thing for a guy to go out there and say, 'I'm getting my teammates easy shots, we're shooting over 50 percent. To hell with scoring.' You just don't find that today."

USF trailed 11-10 after five minutes, then saw Louisville go on a 17-2 run, the first 10 points coming from 6-9 forward Earl Clark, who had a team-high 18 points off the bench. Louisville led by 19 at halftime, and a 10-0 run by USF cut the lead to 14, but the Cardinals answered with 10 straight points.

The Bulls got 22 points and 10 rebounds from Gransberry, and Jones had all of his 15 points in the second half. Starting guards Chris Howard and Jesus Verdejo were a combined 1-for-13, and the Bulls hit 50 percent of their free throws.

Pitino had high praise for Gransberry, who had zero turnovers in 38 minutes.

"Gransberry's as tough a basketball player as you'll face," Pitino said. "He knows how to post up, he understands the post-up game. He has a good future ahead of him at the next level because of that. ... But they've got a good future here, they just have no depth."

Louisville 80

USF 60