South Florida-Temple Preview
Getting his Bulls to turn off the TV and go to bed has been the
biggest challenge for South Florida coach Stan Heath during the
That’s about to change.
The 12th-seeded Bulls followed up a 65-54 win over California in
Dayton, Ohio, by flying Thursday to Nashville for a quick
turnaround for their second-round game against fifth-seeded Temple
in the Midwest Region on Friday night.
”We got our feet wet a little bit and got out there and maybe
worked out the kinks and the nervousness and all those different
things, but we’ve got a quick turnaround to play,” Heath said.
”The other team is a little more well-rested, may have a little
more energy. But may not have the same rhythm that we may have from
the previous game.”
Heath said his Bulls were watching highlights of each other’s
dunks at 2 a.m. Thursday, enjoying the school’s first NCAA
tournament win. South Florida lost in its two previous trips in
1990 and 1992, so these are heady days for the Bulls.
”It’s an exciting time for all of us,” junior forward Toarlyn
Fitzpatrick said. ”It’s even an exciting time for our city of
Tampa for everybody that supported USF for all these years to see a
team make it to the NCAA like for only the third time in
The Bulls (21-13) had an early wake-up call to catch a morning
flight to Nashville. But they got to sleep until mid-afternoon
while coaches broke down Temple (24-7).
The rested Owls won the regular-season title in the Atlantic 10.
They have plenty of NCAA experience in their fifth straight and
30th overall tournament. They also have a lineup featuring senior
Ramone Moore, senior Juan Fernandez and graduate Micheal Eric
looking to finish their college career in style.
They know Temple’s NCAA legacy well and would like to make it to
the second weekend for the first time since 2001.
”This is our last go-round,” Moore said. ”So however far we
can make it, it would be great. I think the Elite Eight you know
says a lot about the teams that we had in the past, how great of a
tradition Temple basketball has had through the years. And like I
said, it would just be great, but I mean we don’t want to try to
look too far ahead.”
The Owls got a close look at South Florida’s stingy defense on
Wednesday night when they watched the Bulls hold California to 13
points in the first half. The Bulls allow an average of 56.9 points
per game, which ranks seventh nationally, and are 16th-best in the
country allowing 38.8 percent shooting.
Fernandez said the Bulls cover a lot of space and contest every
shot with their big guards and athleticism.
”And that’s hard for teams to try to score as they would
against any other team,” Fernandez said. ”So we’re going to have
to move the ball, be patient and move without the ball too, and
play as a team more than ever on offense if we want to break them
With Fernandez giving out 3.9 assists per game and Moore 3.5,
the Owls are pretty good at spreading the ball around. They’re also
pretty good at scoring. Temple averages 76.1 points per game, which
is the most by the Owls since the 1987-88 team averaged 76.8 points
a game in reaching a regional final under John Chaney.
Temple coach Fran Dunphy has been following South Florida a bit
”If I didn’t have to play against them tomorrow, I would have
enjoyed very much watching the game, really celebrated what they
had done,” Dunphy said. ”Now obviously worried.”
This game offers a Big East preview with the announcement March
7 of Temple joining the league in 2012 in football followed by all
sports in 2013-14. Heath said Temple’s tradition and history in
basketball will really add to the Big East right when the
conference is losing some other teams.
”They play on a national scale,” Heath said. ”They beat Duke
this year. I mean, they beat Duke this year! So they don’t need an
introduction. They’re going to be fine. They’re a great program,
and they’ll fit in extremely well with the Big East.”