As impressive as South Florida has been in the Big East this season, Bulls coach Stan Heath can only see only one outcome when his team turns the ball over as much as they did at Marquette on Tuesday night.
The Bulls had 22 turnovers and forced only five, leading to a 67-47 loss to the 17th-ranked Golden Eagles.
“No chance,” Heath said. “We gave ourselves no chance.”
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls (12-9, 5-3), who had a setback in what has otherwise been a hot start in the Big East. South Florida had won three straight coming into Tuesday's game, including a victory at DePaul on Sunday.
“We didn't play well,” Heath said. “Marquette was a part of that, but the things that have been working so well for us in the past, we didn't do tonight. And it caught us.”
Dictating a defensive tempo has been critical to the Bulls' success this season, but the Golden Eagles were the ones applying the pressure Tuesday.
“I think the defense just sped us up a little bit, and had a lot of our guys playing out of character,” Fitzpatrick said. “We were just out of synch and they forced us to turn the ball over.”
Marquette outscored South Florida 20-3 off turnovers.
“They feed off that, they feed off your mistakes,” Heath said. “And that's what happened tonight.”
The Bulls struggled to guard Marquette's Davante Gardner, who scored 15 points.
“He gives us a lot of inside power,” Golden Eagles guard Darius Johnson-Odom said. “I don't know why a lot of teams haven't really focused in on him, haven't really started to double the post when he catches the ball. But if you're going to let him play one-on-one, it's probably either a foul or a basket.”
Heath said Gardner adds another dimension for Marquette.
“Gardner had a terrific game,” Heath said. “They went to him early in the game and he got us in some foul trouble and that was something that affected us quite a bit.”
Marquette coach Buzz Williams said Gardner's development has gone a long way toward helping the team rebound from a season-ending left knee injury to center Chris Otule. Williams also noted that Gardner still has room to improve.
“He's good,” Williams said. “If he could guard a ball screen and lose 30 pounds, he'd be really good. I don't know when he's going to be able to guard a ball screen, or be able to lose 30 pounds, but he has continued to improve and our team has continued to evolve.”
The Golden Eagles made a point to get Gardner involved right away, getting the ball to him on virtually every possession early. Gardner scored the Golden Eagles' first six points.
Fitzpatrick said the Bulls wanted to force Gardner to his left and take away his right-handed hook shot, but couldn't get it done.
“We scouted him,” Fitzpatrick said. “We knew exactly what he was going to do. It was just about executing and getting things done.”
Johnson-Odom scored 17 points and Jae Crowder added 15 points for the Golden Eagles (17-4, 6-2), who have recovered from their rough start in conference play by winning five straight games.
“I just think we're in a really good groove,” Williams said. And obviously when you win, everybody gets more greedy (for success) and that helps.”
It was the 100th career victory for Williams, who made a self-deprecating joke that he was lucky to have a coaching job beyond being an assistant in high school. And given Williams' notorious love for reciting statistics from memory, you'd better bet he knew he was going for No. 100.
“Not to sound like a weirdo, (but) I beat all of you all when it comes to numbers,” Williams said. “As much as you all Twitter and Facebook and act like you study stuff, you all sleep way more than I study numbers.”
Marquette went on a 7-0 run at the end of the first half to take a 33-21 lead.
“They go in the locker room smiling, I go in the locker room yelling,” Heath said.