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TAMPA, Fla. – Once again, South Florida had no answers when Louisville turned up the defensive pressure.
Russ Smith scored 15 points and the 12th-ranked Cardinals stayed within a game of first place in the Big East with a 59-41 victory Sunday.
It wasn't quite as one-sided as the 64-38 drubbing South Florida took at Louisville five weeks ago, but this one was no contest, either. Flurries of turnovers produced big runs in each half for the Cardinals (21-5, 9-4), sending the Bulls to their eighth straight loss.
"They created a lot of disruption," USF coach Stan Heath said. "They really disrupted us, where we thought we'd have an easy play, a layup, a score, and they would make us play a little bit more in a hurry, and that's the thing they do best."
South Florida (10-15, 1-12) shot only 24.5 percent (13 for 53) and committed 16 turnovers that led to 23 Louisville points.
"When you don't do the little things, they make you pay," Bulls forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. "They make big highlight plays that give them a lot of momentum."
Smith, Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware did all the scoring for the Cardinals during a 22-3 run in the first half.
"We struggle offensively, I know," Heath said, "but some of the wide-open shots that we could make and we have made, they made you think, hey, where's the next defensive guy coming from? Where's that next guy that's going to steal it or block it? I just think that gets in your head a little bit, it affects you."
South Florida's last lead was 11-8 before Blackshear tied it with a 3-pointer that launched the decisive rally. JaVontae Hawkins' 3-pointer provided USF's only points in a 9-minute span.
"That's a great defensive team, so you've got to give them credit," Hawkins said. "They communicate on defense, they help each other on defense, they talk. When all that comes together, that makes a great defensive team."
The Bulls got back in the game early in the second half with the help of a spectacular dunk by Victor Rudd and two free throws by Anthony Collins that made it 36-30. But Louisville went back to full-court pressure, producing a 19-3 run that made it 55-33 with 6:12 remaining.
Blackshear and Chane Behanan scored 12 points apiece, and 6-foot-11 center Gorgui Dieng had 10 rebounds and five blocks Louisville, which scored 23 points off turnovers and shot 46 percent (22 for 48).
"I think this year we've just got much more talent than them," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Last year they had a lot of players that could do multiple things. ... I just think they're in a rebuilding year. ... What happens is, the losing keeps going, the losing keeps going. As the other team makes one or two runs, you say, 'Oh, no. Here we go again.' They're a good group. They don't give up. ... He's just one or two guys away from having a very good team, but he is one or two guys away."
Jawanza Poland scored 11 points for USF. Hawkins and Fitzpatrick had nine points apiece, while Rudd and Kore White each grabbed nine rebounds.