I saw the final score and thought to myself, "Well, Providence plays so fast. Both teams must have had the ball a bunch of times, that's why the score was so high. USF isn't that bad at defense." So I figured out the teams' offensive efficiency for the game. You take the number of possessions by a team in the game and divide the number of points they scored by it. (Often the stat is multiplied by 100 and expressed as a ratio - I didn't bother doing that.) I calculated it for the Bulls' last 10 games just to see if this game was some kind of anomaly.
USF OPPONENTS - LAST 10 GAMES
Providence - 105 points, 114 possessions - .921
Seton Hall - 74 points, 103 possessions - .718
Pittsburgh - 61 points, 91 possessions - .670
Georgetown - 64 points, 93 possessions - .688
Notre Dame - 65 points, 95 possessions - .684
Marquette - 63 points, 88 possessions - .716
Cincinnati - 57 points, 89 possessions - .640
St. John's - 74 points, 89 possessions - .831
Villanova - 74 points, 98 possessions - .755
Providence - 93 points, 100 possessions - .930
USF OFFENSE - LAST 10 GAMES
Providence - 109 points, 123 possessions - .887
Seton Hall - 76 points, 99 possessions - .768
Pittsburgh - 70 points, 95 possessions - .739
Georgetown - 72 points, 95 possessions - .758
Notre Dame - 62 points, 92 possessions - .674
Marquette - 52 points, 104 possessions - .500
Cincinnati - 65 points, 84 possessions - .774
St. John's - 58 points, 84 possessions - .691
Villanova - 49 points, 93 possessions - .527
Providence - 99 points, 106 possessions - .934
So you can't blame pace. Both teams just stunk defensively. USF was a bit better, obviously because they didn't give up as many points, but because Providence made several contested shots in the half-court offense, even contested threes.
On the other hand, the Friars were unbelievably bad at transition defense. To tweak a phrase from Ed Olczyk, it was tremendously untremendous. Part of this was tactics - they love to crash the offensive glass, which helps them rebound all those threes they take. And it worked, because they got 18 offensive rebounds. But it left them with a lot of guys trapped down low when they didn't come up with the ball, and USF exploited that all night by outletting and pushing up the court again quickly. Then other times, and especially on the game-winning basket by DoJo, guys were standing around after a made shot, and the Bulls flew out on the wings to collect long inbounds passes. They got numbers in a hurry and capitalized. I don't know how many fast break points USF got, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was something like 30. They got out in transition a lot and Providence couldn't stop them at all.
I really liked Stan Heath's strategy tonight. He knew the Friars were going to make some threes, crash the boards, and get some easy baskets. It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to match a team like that and putting up 25 of your own from beyond the arc, which obviously would have been a horrible idea with how bad the Bulls shoot the ball from outside. But they didn't. They got the ball out on the break, got to the rim, and especially got to the foul line. People love to rip on USF when they don't make free throws, so here's a stat for them. The Bulls were 32-for-38 from the line tonight, the most they've made in a game since 1991 and tied for the fifth-most in school history.
Gus Gilchrist looked as good as he has since he came back from his injury. He was strong in the post and on the boards, and he made enough shots that defenders couldn't leave him alone and collapse in the half-court. It also helped that Providence didn't have anyone who could guard him. Bilal Dixon was in foul trouble the whole game and only played 15 minutes, and I don't know who this Ray Hall guy is, but he looks like the recently departed Phil Harris of the CorneliaMarie. He might be the least athletic big man I've seen in the Big East. The guy didn't have a chance.
It was an immensely entertaining game and the Bulls pulled it out in the end, delivering another brutal loss to Providence. USF should salt away an NIT bid with one more win - it would make their worst possible record 18-14, and that should be enough to get in as a Big East team with at least a little bit of an identity. That one more win should be on Tuesday against DePaul (that would also shave a loss off their worst possible record), but stranger things have happened.
P.S. I couldn't decide who Keno Davis looks like. Eventually I narrowed it down to either Fred Savage or Patton Oswalt.