TAMPA - USF cut its deficit to six almost midway through Sunday's
second half but the Bulls couldn't keep the momentum in a 59-41 loss to No. 12
Louisville before a crowd of 7,368 at the Sun Dome.
USF shot 24 percent from the field while the Cardinals used
a big run in each half to keep things out of reach. Jawanza Poland was the lone
Bull in double figures with 11 points in USF's eighth consecutive loss.
"They need about two big runs and all the sudden they're
stretching you out. We couldn't give that to them and we did," USF head coach
Stan Heath said.
Russ Smith posted a game-high 15 points while Chane Behanan
and Wane Blackshear added 12 points apiece for Louisville (21-5, 9-4). The
Cardinals seized control of the game with a 19-3 run in the second half and won
for the fifth time in their past six games.
"That's a really, really good team. They hit you in so many
different ways," Heath said.
USF (10-15, 1-12) grabbed the lead twice in the opening
minutes of the game and used a Poland layup to go ahead, 11-8, with 13:21
remaining first half.
Louisville responded with a 22-3 run that gave the Cardinals
a 30-14 advantage with less than six minutes to play before the break.
"They created a lot of disruption. They made us play a
little bit more in a hurry and that's what they do best," Heath said.
The Bulls managed to cut Louisville's lead to 32-24 before
halftime thanks to big shots from long range. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick started USF's
closing 10-2 run with a 3-pointer and Rudd made another just before the buzzer.
USF knocked down five of nine three-point attempts in the period and got two
A thunderous dunk by Rudd of a rebound and two Collins free
throws cut USF's deficit to 36-30 seven minutes into the second half.
Just like the opening period, Louisville put together a lengthy
run that gave it a sizeable advantage. Two free throws by Smith sparked a 19-3 run
that gave the Cardinals a 55-33 lead with less than six minutes remaining.
USF finished the second half 4-for-27 from the field and
0-for-11 from long range.
"The ball stopped going in. It's hard to create momentum
when the ball isn't going in," Fitzpatrick said. "Louisville is a good team, so
when you don't do the little things they make you pay."
The Bulls begin a two-game road trip 7 p.m. Wednesday at St.
John's and finish it up Wednesday, Feb. 27 at Pittsburgh.
"We just keep battling, keep on fighting and stick with it,"
Heath said. "Winning makes you feel good and we have to find a way to win
USF's next home game is Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m. against
DePaul. The Bulls finish up their home slate Wednesday, March 6 at 9 p.m.