TAMPA — After USF's upset of No. 8 Marquette on Friday night, coach Stan Heath said he didn't want the historic win to be a "Christmas experience," the kind of event you celebrate once a year.
Four days later, his Bulls had the energy and excitement you might expect to find … on Dec. 29.
USF, seeking back-to-back Big East wins for the first time, saw none of the same emotion or intensity Tuesday night in the Sun Dome, unable to keep up with Providence in a 77-62 loss.
"It's frustrating people don't take it more serious, that people don't have it in their heart to just come out and play hard," said guard Dominique Jones, who had a game-high 29 points. "Knowing everybody came out there nonchalant … if you're just out there shooting the ball, not playing defense, messing up the whole team chemistry."
Two things were glaring for the Bulls (8-15, 3-8) Tuesday: the total lack of depth against one of the league's most balanced teams, and atrocious free-throw shooting. The bench was outscored 35-6 and USF hit just 5 of 16 free throws.
"This wasn't what I expected, not necessarily winning or losing, just how we played," Heath said. "We went from a very hungry team that was on a mission together, and tonight it just wasn't there."
USF led 26-21, but Providence ended the first half on a 20-6 run to lead 41-32. The Bulls scored the first five points, prompting a Friars timeout, but Providence scored the next seven to regain control.
The Bulls made one more run, scoring eight straight to cut the Providence lead to five with 4:15 to play. Jones' dunk prompted a Friars timeout, but on their next possession, Brian McKenzie hit a 3-pointer. Providence hit its next six free throws to put the game away.
"We don't give ourselves a chance when we go to the line and don't cash in at a higher rate," Heath said. "Those were frustrating things that happened tonight. Dominique was trying to carry us by himself but it wasn't enough."
Freshman forward Gus Gilchrist went 1-for-10 from the field and had enough defensive lapses that Heath benched him for the final 11:29. Providence's Jonathan Kale and Randall Hanke went a combined 11-for-13 in the post, combining for 29 points.
It was USF's seventh loss by 15 points or more this season; last season's team had three such losses. The Bulls play Sunday at Notre Dame, which has lost seven straight.