TAMPA — There were seven turnovers and three missed shots in USF's first 11 possessions, and that was only the start.
The Bulls didn't really stop digging a hole until two minutes were left in the opening half, and No. 24 Marquette had a 38-13 lead. At that point, USF did well just to trade baskets with the Golden Eagles, dropping to 1-9 in Big East play after a 70-47 loss before an announced crowd of 5,186.
"The turnovers were huge in the first half," said coach Stan Heath, whose team had 14 turnovers before the half, leading to 23 Marquette points. "Too good a team to let them race out to a lead. Ball wasn't dropping very well for us and I think that got a little frustrating for us, too. We've got to find a way to get ourselves a little bit tougher … to not put our heads down when things go wrong."
Much has gone wrong for the Bulls (10-12), who went 12-6 in the Big East during last year's NCAA Tournament run but find themselves at the bottom of the conference standings. Just nine days earlier, USF had played Marquette much closer, trailing by eight with eight minutes to play in a 63-50 loss.
"I think part of that had to do with being overly aggressive. … They made us pay with silly turnovers, and they got easy baskets," senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. "We just didn't protect the ball. I don't fault our guys for trying … they're a really good defensive team. They like to press you, they like to speed you up, and that's exactly what they did."
USF's top scorers were largely quiet. Fitzpatrick and Victor Rudd each went 3-for-10 from the field, finishing with seven and eight points, respectively. Point guard Anthony Collins went 2-for-7 from the field on the way to six points, five assists and four turnovers.
Marquette (16-5, 7-2) had four players in double figures, bouncing back nicely from a 70-51 loss at No. 12 Louisville on Sunday.
"I thought our guys' preparation and how they handled the whipping we took Sunday … I thought they were really locked in," coach Buzz Williams said. "It wasn't like it was James Naismith or anything, as far as the adjustments (from the first game)."
Freshman forward Zach LeDay led the Bulls with 14 points, with six in the final five minutes as Marquette emptied its bench. Heath gave 7-foot-3 freshman center Jordan Omogbehin a rare start; he had two points and four rebounds in 16 minutes, continuing to work on handling a larger role.
USF is back on the road, playing Saturday at Villanova, which is now 5-5 in the Big East and defeated the Bulls 61-53 in Tampa last month.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3346.