Bulls Make Marquette Sweat in 59-58 Win

By on February 11, 2011

By: Larry D. Lieberman (RSE – USF Bulls Correspondent)

 Tampa, Fl. – (RSE) It’s long been the conventional protocol of sports psychologists to ignore the little things which fall against your team and accept that losing a close contest signifies that your opponent was simply the better team that day. When the Packers beat the Steelers last Sunday in Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin did not lay the blame on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for his two interceptions; nor did he succumb to the temptation to rationalize the loss by blaming his team’s coaching staff, its kicker, the officiating or even plain ole’ cruddy luck.

 That said, the South Florida Bulls could hardly be culpable for grousing about how the basketball deities have marginalized their existence. And the Bulls’ 59-58 loss to the Marquette Golden Eagles before a feisty Sun Dome crowd of 4,153 on Wednesday night was yet another dose of time-released misfortune.

Behind junior forward Jae Crowder’s 14 points, including 4-0f-5 from beyond the 3-point stripe, the Marquette Golden Eagles used an up-tempo, full-court press to harass the Bulls into beginning to surrender a 16-point lead midway through the second half.  Marquette senior Jimmy Butler came off the bench – snapping a streak of 57 consecutive starts – and posted 12 points and 6 rebounds for Coach Buzz Williams, whose floor-stomping zeal even had press row minding its posture.

The Bulls officially handed over the lead at the 4:26 mark of the final period on a Crowder 3-pointer which gave Marquette a 54-53 advantage. A Butler layup and step-back 3 from Crowder inside of 2 minutes finished the Golden Eagles’ scoring.

South Florida was led by Toarlyn Fitzpatrick’s double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, which were season-best totals in both categories. Fitzpatrick has rewarded Coach Stan Heath for his insertion into the starting lineup by averaging 12.5 points and 7 rebounds over the past four games in tenacious style.  Augustus Gilchrist also chipped in 11 points from the low post as the Bulls continue to develop front court chemistry to match their size and athleticism.

Marquette tried desperately to be hospitable guests by missing 7 consecutive free throws down the stretch but the Bulls returned the favor by systematically surrendering 18 turnovers as part of a season-long struggle with attention to detail. The Golden Eagles turned it over an exceedingly stingy 8 times.

Marquette junior Darius Johnson-Odom, who averages 16.4 points per game, was mostly held in check by a Bull’s defensive posse led by junior Hugh Robertson. It was the first time in two months that Johnson-Odom was contained to less than 13 points.

Though the Bulls stand as one of the taller and more physically imposing teams in college hoops, their share of fortuitous bounces seems to be (ironically) stocked on a mile-high shelf beyond metaphorical reach. Case in point: For the second time in three games, a 3-point basket by South Florida – a scarcity already – was taken off the scoreboard as Coach Stan Heath called timeout as Bulls guard Anthony Crater went airborne for the would-be tying shot with 8 seconds left in the game.

Compounding the Bulls’ malaise in brutal fashion, Fitzpatrick banked in a free throw he intended to miss in an effort to create a tip-in scoring opportunity with three seconds left. The accidental “score” from the foul line allowed Marquette to inbound the ball from their baseline and run out the clock for the victory.

The Bulls return to action on Saturday at The Sun Dome for a 12 Noon tip-off against #7 Notre Dame. With seven Big East teams now ranked in the top 15 in the AP Poll, the Bulls will need a vociferous crowd to spoil the Fighting Irish’s run toward the post season. The Irish are suspect on the road and the Bulls have a realistic opportunity to gain some much-needed respect by beating a ranked opponent for the third time in the last two seasons. 

Kids 17 and under are free for the game as with all USF men’s and women’s home games on campus.

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