TAMPA — During a halftime ceremony in which his 2013 team received its Big East championship rings, USF softball coach Ken Eriksen took the microphone and addressed the segment of the Sun Dome basketball audience not bedecked in red.
"You need to hang in there with this university," he said.
Honoring Eriksen's request might have been easier had USF been able to hang in there with No. 12 Louisville.
What began as a mismatch quickly segued into a mauling Wednesday night against the reigning national champion. Offensively impotent against Louisville's pressure, the Bulls finished with nearly twice as many turnovers (23) as assists (12) in an 86-47 embarrassment.
The 39-point margin of defeat was seven points shy of the program record. With roughly six minutes to play, Louisville had as many points off turnovers (35) as USF (10-9, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) had points.
"This will certainly go down as a game I want to forget as fast as possible," said coach Stan Heath, who can only hope for collective amnesia with a contest Sunday at No. 23 Memphis.
"They dictated and did whatever they wanted to do. We didn't have any answers."
Outmatched and a bit awestruck, the Bulls struggled to find open looks as the Cardinals (17-3, 6-1) pressed and diversified their defense to exploit a USF backcourt still missing junior point guard Anthony Collins (knee).
USF's turnover total was a season high, not that the Bulls guards were the lone culprits. At least three turnovers occurred on inbounds passes.
Offensively, only one of USF's eight first-half field goals — a Shemiye McLendon jumper — came outside the paint. By then, Louisville already had a 27-11 lead, and the Cardinals took a 45-22 advantage into the locker room. At that stage, Bulls top scorer Victor Rudd had two points.
"We were trying to change up as much as possible and keep Rudd from getting a lot of attempts," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
"They played very well (Saturday) against Cincinnati (a 61-54 loss) and they just had an off night tonight. We were very much ready to play because of that Cincinnati game."
Saturday's competitiveness bore no resemblance to Wednesday's debacle, when the Cardinals lead got as high as 44.
As USF continued its futility (1-for-8) from 3-point range, Louisville hit 12 of 23 from behind the arc against the league's worst 3-point defense. Five Cardinals finished in double figures; freshman Chris Perry (10) was the only Bull to do so.
"We just didn't have any answers, and I just thought we were a little bit in awe," said Heath, whose club has lost its past 12 to ranked teams.
"You can't play the jerseys. You've got to play those guys inside the jerseys. I think tonight we were playing the jerseys and were just kind of mesmerized."