TAMPA — It would be an exaggeration to say nothing at all went right for the University of South Florida on Wednesday night — but only a slight one.
The Bulls (10-9, 1-5 AAC) were outclassed from start to finish by defending national champion Louisville in an 86-47 blowout in front of 6,417 fans at the Sun Dome.
Rick Pitino’s Cardinals (17-3, 6-1), ranked No. 12 in the country, showed no mercy against the Bulls, keeping their foot on the gas pedal long after the outcome was decided.
“This will certainly go down as a game I want to forget as fast as possible,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “They dictated and did whatever they wanted to do. We didn’t have any answers. … I thought we were a little bit in awe. You can’t play the jerseys, you’ve got to play the guys inside the jerseys. Tonight, we were playing the jerseys and were just mesmerized.”
USF’s effort and communication represented a comedy of errors.
Guard Martino Brock dove on a loose ball in the first half and called a timeout to preserve possession as a Louisville player tried to wrestle it away. After the timeout, Javontae Hawkins’ attempt at an inbounds pass sailed out of bounds without touching a player on either team because its intended recipient had cut in a different direction.
In the second half, point guard Josh Heath dribbled the ball across halfcourt and passed to Victor Rudd, who was looking in the other direction. The ball clattered off his hands and into the waiting arms of a Cardinal.
A few minutes later, Rudd’s attempted inbounds pass to Corey Allen Jr. sailed over Allen’s head and out of bounds at the far end of the court.
“Baseline out-of-bounds was just awful,” Stan Heath said. “I can’t put another word on our baseline out-of-bounds execution. We probably had five or six turnovers on that alone, which is unacceptable.”
Focus was in short supply as USF’s deficit swelled to 44 points late in the second half.
Chris Perry (10) was the only Bulls player to reach double-figure scoring.
Six Cardinals, led by Wayne Blackshear with 16, scored nine or more points. Louisville shot 51 percent from the field and 54 percent from 3-point range. The Bulls turned the ball over 23 times.
Eight minutes into the game, USF trailed 17-6. By halftime, the Bulls were down 45-22.
The Cardinals opened the second half on a 12-3 run and the Bulls couldn’t even begin to answer, grinding out a brutal final 20 minutes.
“It’s hard, down 40,” Rudd said. “I don’t think I’ve ever lost by this much of a margin. It’s hard to lose like that, especially if you’ve never been on that end of the stick. It’s tough, but we’ve got to keep playing hard. We’ve got to find a way to win.”
The path ahead doesn’t get any easier for the Bulls, who play at No. 23 Memphis on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers beat USF 88-73 in the Sun Dome on New Year’s Eve.