DALLAS — Seven minutes into Wednesday's game at Moody Coliseum, USF coach Stan Heath was frustrated — and his SMU counterpart, Larry Brown, was nervous.
Brown's nervousness melted away quickly. Heath's frustration only grew in what turned into a long night for the Bulls. Smothered by SMU's aggressive defense and pounded by the Mustangs' powerful big men, USF was crushed right out of the gate in a 71-54 defeat.
"They came out very aggressive, took it right at us," Heath said. "We got off to such a slow start and really didn't give ourselves much of a chance."
While SMU (12-4, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) scored almost effortlessly on its first six possessions, the Bulls (10-7, 1-3) missed their first nine shots and fell behind 13-0.
The opening onslaught was too much for USF's inexperienced backcourt, including junior Corey Allen and freshman Josh Heath, the coach's son who manned the point in the absence of injured Anthony Collins. Stan Heath said the guards were rattled by relentless pressure and the road atmosphere.
"They made us play faster than we usually play," said Allen, a junior college transfer in his first Division I season.
The Bulls' first three shots were outside jumpers that missed badly, and Heath called timeout two minutes into the game.
"That's not us," said Heath, whose team lost its first true road game after winning a program-record four straight. "We normally play inside out, and the ball never even got looked in the post. I have no idea if they were guarding the post or not because we never looked there."
The Bulls finally scored on Martino Brock's fastbreak layin with 12:41 left in the first half and trailed 17-2.
Which, strangely, is what made Brown nervous. "I saw a high school game last night where a team got down 17-0 and won," the Hall of Fame coach said. "When I saw we were up 17-2, I was thinking, 'Oh, my God.' "
His team calmed his nerves. Markus Kennedy and Shawn Williams destroyed USF down low, combining for 34 points on 14-of-22 shooting with 17 rebounds, as the Mustangs shot 50.9 percent and outscored the Bulls 42-24 in the lane.
SMU held USF to 32 percent from the field. Bulls star Victor Rudd, averaging 16.2 points, scored five on 2-of-13 shooting.