South Fla works over Cal 65-54 in NCAA tourney
Every air ball and swatted shot sent another chill into a
California team that had never seen anything like it.
Must have made the other teams in South Florida’s bracket
shudder just a bit, too.
The Bulls introduced the Big East’s nastiest defense to the NCAA
tournament on Wednesday night, allowing only 13 points in the first
half of a 65-54 victory over a California team that went long
stretches without a single point.
The Bulls swarmed `em, bumped `em and swatted their shots away –
those that weren’t air balls, that is.
California (24-10) didn’t score over the last 8:55 of the first
half, missing 10 shots and turning it over twice while South
Florida pulled ahead 36-13.
”We just didn’t have any energy,” California guard Allen
Yep, the Bulls stole that away, too.
Guard Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 player of the year, was held
to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting. California managed only five
field goals in the first half, when three of their points came off
”I didn’t imagine that happening,” California coach Mike
Montgomery said. ”We dug ourselves a huge hole in the first half,
and that’s probably as bad as I’ve seen us play. We weren’t doing
much of anything.”
Ugly, ugly, ugly. Just the way South Florida likes it.
”We get mad when people score, no matter what kind of bucket it
is,” said South Florida’s Victor Rudd, who 15 points. ”And that’s
what makes us have people scoring in the 50s, 40s. We don’t like it
when people score at all, not even on a free throw.
”So we get mad at each other, and that’s how we play great
South Florida (21-13) will play No. 5 seed Temple in Nashville
on Friday, a matchup of teams known for gritty defense. Few have
been better than this one for the first 20 minutes on the NCAA
It wasn’t all defense that got it done for South Florida.
Freshman point guard Anthony Collins, a thin-built player with a
youthful face that reminds coach Stan Heath of a 12-year-old kid,
played like a star in his first NCAA tournament game, scoring 12
The Golden Bears won’t soon forget the way they got worked over.
They must have felt as if there were six Bulls on the floor at
times playing defense.
No, only five. The refs counted.
The Bulls set a Big East record by giving up only 56.9 points
per game this season. Their problem: They score about as many
points as they give up. South Florida didn’t have a player average
in double figures for the season.
Realizing he didn’t have many scoring options, Heath instituted
the defense-first, defense-last philosophy that got them to their
first NCAA tournament appearance in 20 years and, now, their first
win. The Bulls came in 0-2 in the tournament.
Other teams exult when one of their players hits a big basket.
The Bulls cheer from the bench as the other team passes the ball
around helplessly and hopelessly.
They were cheering their defense from the opening tip.
The first time down the court, Gutierrez forced a running shot
that was too hard, a taste of the misery ahead. California missed
its first five shots and eight of its first nine, helping South
Florida pull ahead 15-3.
Collins made a driving layup, a floater, a 15-foot pull-up
jumper and a layup off his steal during the opening run, getting
South Florida’s unpredictable offense moving.
The Golden Bears readily acknowledged that they hadn’t played
anything quite like the Bulls’ defense. With four players averaging
in double figures, their best chance was to spread the ball around
and be patient.
They ran out of patience real fast, prompting Montgomery to call
a timeout to get his team settled down. Instead, things quickly got
A lot worse.
Gutierrez hit a fade-away 15-foot jumper with 8:56 left in the
first half. The Golden Bears wouldn’t score again before halftime,
with South Florida pulling off a 14-0 run. It ended with a telling
moment: California guard Justin Cobbs dribbling toward the basket
and failing to even attempt a shot before the buzzer sounded.
The Golden Bears shuffled toward the locker room with blanks
expressions. Their 13 points matched the seventh-fewest in an
opening half since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985, according
to STATS LLC.
The Bulls pulled ahead 57-25 with 8:49 left, making sure there
wouldn’t be another big comeback on the same floor where two of
them opened the First Four on Tuesday night.
The only question was how low they could keep the sore.
California got its 40th point with 2:54 to go, and fouled
repeatedly in the final minute, giving itself enough chances to hit
the 50-point mark.
”Obviously the end score was a little misleading,” Montgomery
said. ”But at some point, we just implored our people to keep
competing, trying to get back and get respectable, because it
looked like it could get out of hand.”