NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—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 NCAA tournament.
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 history.”
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 down.”
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 this season.
“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.”