The first half for 12-seed USF got off to a start similar to many of their games down the stretch of the season. The Bulls couldn’t hit a shot, at one point trailing 5-seed Temple 19-9 and shooting less than 10% from the field.
But as has also happened in many of their games, Stan Heath’s club was able to get going offensively at just the right time. USF opened the second half on a 24-6 run, ultimately winning 58-44 to advance to a match-up with 13-seed Ohio on Sunday.
Anthony Collins and Victor Rudd Jr. scored 17 points apiece to lead the way for USF, who made 14 of 23 from the field in the second half. That was more than enough to erase a brutal first half, and USF’s effort defensively is the reason why.
Temple shot 36% for the game and was out-rebounded 37-28, with senior guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore combining to make just two of their twelve shots and scoring six points.
“A lot of times when you’re struggling to score, and I hate to admit this as a coach, but your defense does start struggling because guys get frustrated and all of a sudden you have breakdowns in the defensive end,” said Heath.
“This team has been exceptional at not letting some offensive woes affect what they need to do on the defensive end.”
USF’s style of play may not be pleasing to the eye for basketball fans without a rooting interest (or even their own fans for that matter), but simply put “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, as Heath noted in his post-game TV interview.
The last time USF allowed an opponent to shoot better than 39% from the field was back on February 4, when Georgetown knocked down half of their shots on the way to a 75-45 win. Since that blowout USF is 9-3 and they sit one game away from the school’s first-ever Sweet 16.
“Our guys talked about leaving some footprints in the sand, and I told this group that we’ve already done a little bit but let’s try to make it bigger,” remarked Heath. “And I think the guys, you know, know that there’s more opportunity for us.
“So every little thing I think is good motivation for us, whether we have ugly offense or whether we have a chance to create more history. It’s all good things that help fuel us.”
Their style of play may not be pleasing to the eye but the goal this time of the year is to “survive and advance”. Simply doing that looks good enough to the Bulls, as it should.