Heath: Bulls lack leadership
The fact USF's men's basketball team lost 78-55 to No. 8 Notre Dame Saturday afternoon was rough enough for coach Stan Heath. After all, it was the Bulls second 23-point defeat in the past week (including a loss to Syracuse last Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum).
It was how it has happened which appeared to bother Heath the most.
Heath said the Bulls (8-18, 2-11 Big East) looked like a team that carried a "hangover" from their 59-58 loss to Marquette Wednesday - -when USF blew a 16-point second half lead. He said his team weren't ready to go, and it paid for it, falling behind 24-3 out of the gates.
“That’s just a sign of immaturity. Just a lack of maturity,” Heath said. “You can’t fix what happened yesterday. All you can do is you’ve got an opportunity today, I’m going to take advantage of it and play my best, I’m going to make something positive out of it. That was disappointing.
“I think that comes down a little bit of maybe really not having that total leadership involved in the team where there’s guys in the locker room rallying the troops and keeping everybody moving forward. It’s something that we’ve got to fix.
"There's a lot of evaluation we've got to do with our team to figure out the right pieces. Recruit leadership a little bit more, find guys that have that competitive fire that burns all the time, not just some of the time."
Reserve Shaun Noriega was one Bull who came to play, scoring a career-high 23 points. But Heath didn't see enough guys like that in the lockeroom at halftime.
"I'm in the locker room, trying to figure out, 'Are we scared of them?' Or are we just not tough enough?' Heath said. "Either one is not good."
To be fair, Notre Dame is a really good team. They are loaded with seniors, and one of the top players in the conference - if not the country - in senior guard Ben Hansbrough. But USf has proven it can compete with some of the better teams (including losing by just three to Notre Dame earlier in the season). But not when it plays like Saturday.
“Two things happen in this league if you’re not ready to play,” Heath said. “You get beat, or you get beat really bad. We got beat really bad.”
It brings me back to a point Heath made on Thursday during his media availability. He talked about how he needed to work with his guards to try to get more out of them, have them manage the game better. There's no question the Bulls miss the leadership and production of their starting backcourt last year, Dominique Jones and Chris Howard, two guys that aren't easily replaced. Heath said if those two players were here, they'd want the ball during an opponent's big run, tell the other teammates to clear out and attack the basket, taking charge.
When asked what players on his team he feels want the ball in the big moments late in the game, Heath said sophomore guard Jawanza Poland does, and has the confidence, he's just trying to figure out how to use his talent to do it. Heath said those types of things you can build in a team, but part of it comes to bringing those types of players in.
"I think it's something you've got to look to in recruiting," Heath said. "You've got to look to guys who play with confidence, that come from winning programs, guys that just bleed winning, and not necessarily, 'How many points did I score?' I think that's an important part of recruiting."
(Side note: Greg Auman should be returning to posting his insights on this blog shortly, so I'll be back on Rays baseball and hockey. But thanks for all your participation and comments along the way.)
-- JOE SMITH