USF HOOPS COACH SPEAK – FEBRUARY 14
By Leo Haggerty
FINALLY BACK ON THE HARDWOOD
After just over a month of pandemic forced idleness, basketball returned to the University of South Florida campus. Below are the results of this week’s hardcourt action along with commentary from both head coaches.
All pictures courtesy of our staff photo journalist Trace Crisp. Enjoy.
After a 31 day hiatus, with the last game being a road win at Tulane on January 13th, the USF women returned to action on Saturday. Understandably, the Lady Bulls (and I despise using that term “Lady” but I’m out of options) showed a little bit of rust early from the long layoff.
The Green & Gold shook off the inactivity after the first quarter and found their groove. USF sprinted away from a 17-12 advantage at the end of the first 10 minutes and went on 32-20 run over the next two periods. From there, the Lady Bulls cruised to a 67-46 conquest of the Golden Hurricane.
Had a chance to get a couple of questions with Head Coach Jose Fernandez after South Florida moved to 11-1 and a perfect 8-0 in the American Athletic Conference. He had some very interesting responses to my two queries.
LH : Saying your a good basketball team may be an understatement. You’re 11-1 right now and the only defeat has been a competitive loss to Baylor. You may be the best kept secret in the NCAA. Are you happy just staying under the radar like this?
JF : Well, I don’t think that we’re under the radar just because we’re in the Top 15 in the country in both polls and are net is 1450. If this virus doesn’t happen, we have just an unbelievable schedule in place. We had Texas on the road. We had The Battle of Atlantis. We had the opportunity to win some quality basketball games. Yeah, we’re 11-1 but I don’t think we beat Mississippi State if we didn’t have that loss. We learned a lot from that loss against Baylor because we didn’t do what needed to be done to beat Baylor. You hate to lose but, sometimes, you can learn a lot so that it doesn’t happen again. You learn from it. Right now, we’re just playing one game at a time the rest of the way and, yeah, we do have a good team. We need to be a great time night in and night out to continue to talk about wins.
LH : I know you see these girls every day, but the no look pass that Pinzan made on the break was one of the best I’ve seen all year. How good can she be?
JF : Yeah, she has really good vision. She almost had another one to Betty but the kid for Tulsa made a really good defensive play. I think she did a really good job today. I think she had seven assists and six steals. She was pressing a little bit early offensively. Right now, our team is made up so that every night can be a different guy. Some teams just have a super guy that they just talk about all the time. The strength of our team is the strength of our depth because of the amount of really good basketball players we have on this team. We have a lot of good ones that will be playing basketball for a long time after they leave here.
The South Florida Men’s squad had it worse if you can fathom that. Not by much but it was still a longer layoff.
The Bulls last contest, before the February 10th Thursday night 82-65 home lost to Houston, was a Saturday 69-63 victory at East Carolina on January 9th. If you do the math, and I ALWAYS encourage you to do, that’s 32 days between games.
In the game with the #7 ranked Cougars, conditioning played a big factor. With the contest tied at 25 with eight minutes to go in the first half, Houston went on an 18-10 run to take a 43-35 lead to intermission. The Red & White kept up the pressure by outscoring the Green & Gold 29-8 in the first 9:18 of the second half to increase their lead to 72-44.
Talked with Head Coach Brian Gregory after the Sunday tilt. Here are his responses to my questions.
LH : You couldn’t have picked a tougher opponent coming off a month layoff than Houston Thursday. A better performance today but not the outcome you wanted. How long do you think it’s going to take to get back to where you were in January?
BG : I wish I knew. I wish I knew. Again, there were some spurts in the games this week. You never know what other teams or programs, that have layoffs, have had. Was it a couple guys that were quarantined and could everyone else practice or have the opportunities to work out. We were, more or less, shut down for a good portion of those 32 days. Hopefully, it will only take us two more days because we play on Wednesday and again on Saturday. You get to this point in the season and there’s not a lot of time. I just need to go out there and practice well as much as you can practice. That’s the other thing. When you’re playing all these games, if difficult to expend extended time on the practice court as well.
LH : Some of the 50-50 balls you were just a step slow getting to today. Is that more a lack of conditioning due to the over a month layoff you had as opposed to desire?
Yeah, I think, in general in both these games, it’s not hard to see that we’re a step slow in a lot of stuff right now. We were a step slow in getting back. On a throw over the top on a ball screen action late in the game we were a step slow. Like you said, on the 50-50 balls, or balls that were tipped or tapped, they capitalized on them. I know they got one in the first half. They got the big three in the corner in the second half off of it. A combination of, maybe, having our feet in the mud a little bit when we’re trying to get back and a lack of game experience and a lack of practice time and different things like that. You know, we’re a program that prides ourselves on those things. So, as we move forward, we have to shrink that gap so those five or six situations don’t come back to haunt us and that was that was the case tonight.