DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Ugly, ugly, ugly. Just the way South Florida likes it.The Bulls introduced the NCAA tournament to the Big East's nastiest defense Wednesday night, putting more than just a chill into a California team that had never seen anything like it. The Bulls allowed only 13 points in the first half and brushed their way to a 65-54 victory.South Florida (21-13) will play No. 5 seed Temple in Nashville on Friday, a matchup of teams known for gritty defense. Few have been better than this one for the first 20 minutes on the NCAA stage.The Bulls swarmed em, bumped em' and swatted their shots away - those that weren't air balls, that is.California (24-10) didn't score over the last 8:55 of the first half, missing 10 shots and turning it over twice while South Florida pulled ahead 36-13.Guard Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 player of the year, was held to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.It wasn't all defense that got it done for South Florida. Freshman point guard Anthony Collins, a thin-built player with a youthful face that reminds coach Stan Heath of a 12-year-old kid, played like a star in his first NCAA tournament game, scoring 12 points. Victor Rudd had 15 pointsThe Golden Bears won't soon forget the way they got worked over. They must have felt as if there were six Bulls on the floor at times playing defense.No, only five. The refs counted.The Bulls set a Big East record by giving up only 56.9 points per game this season. Their problem: They score about as many points as they give up. South Florida didn't have a player average in double figures for the season.Realizing he didn't have many scoring options, Heath instituted the defense-first, defense-last philosophy that got them to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 20 years and, now, their first win. The Bulls came in 0-2 in the tournament.Other teams exult when one of their players hits a big basket. The Bulls cheer from the bench as the other team passes the ball around helplessly and hopelessly.They were cheering their defense from the opening tip.The first time down the court, Gutierrez forced a running shot that was too hard, a taste of the misery ahead. California missed its first five shots and eight of its first nine, helping South Florida pull ahead 15-3.Collins made a driving layup, a floater, a 15-foot pull-up jumper and a layup off his steal during the opening run, getting South Florida's unpredictable offense moving.The Golden Bears readily acknowledged that they hadn't played anything quite like the Bulls' defense. With four players averaging in double figures, their best chance was to spread the ball around and be patient.They ran out of patience real fast, prompting coach Mike Montgomery to call a timeout to get his team settled down. Instead, things quickly got worse.A lot worse.Gutierrez hit a fade-away 15-foot jumper with 8:56 left in the first half. The Golden Bears wouldn't score again before halftime, with South Florida pulling off a 14-0 run. It ended with a telling moment: California guard Justin Cobbs dribbling toward the basket and failing to even attempt a shot before the buzzer sounded.Totally discombobulated.The Golden Bears shuffled toward the locker room with blanks expressions. Their 13 points matched the seventh-fewest in an opening half since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985, according to STATS LLC.The Bulls pulled ahead 57-25 with 8:49 left. The only question was how low they could keep the sore. California fouled repeatedly in the final minute, giving itself enough chances to hit the 50-point mark.
Bob Murphy, who was the voice of Stanford athletics when such titles truly mattered in the Bay Area, died Tuesday after a long fight with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 86.
Murphy was viscerally connected to the university in ways that were once in vogue across the nation but are now reserved only to the Midwest and Southeast. He was a walking ambassador for the school’s athletic history, a familiar face to the army of alums who linked to his voice and presence early and ultimately grew old with him, even when coaches and players and athletic directors came and went with unsettling frequency.
And while his time as the alternate face to Hoover Tower eventually faded, he was still Murph – to be honored and respected by all generations, even the ones who never heard him or saw him. If anyone below the age of 25 asked about him, he was spoken of with the reverence reserved for architectural structures or hundred-year-old trees. He belonged to the place, and the place belonged to him.
He mattered at Stanford, because Stanford is an insular community, watching the world outside with a palpable sense of “Thank God we’re safe in here.” He attended the school, he worked as its sports information director, and he was the radio voice who fought for Stanford when only a few people were listening. He had proven his devotion decades ago, until his devotion became part of the background noise and scenery.
And he didn’t even leave after he became ill, and then absent. Only the most successful coaches and athletes get to attain that omnipresent aura in college athletics, and in truth, Murphy reached more people in the community than any coach or player the school has ever had, simply by being at the place, and of the place, longer and more happily than anyone.
Sometime soon, we suspect, he will be remembered with a statue, either near the football stadium or near Maples Pavilion. He will be bronzed, wearing a polo shirt with the S-with-the-interlocking-tree and glasses wedged against the bridge of his nose. He will be seated, with a desk before him and microphone perched atop it, and there will be a plaque with a Wikipedia-ized list of his contributions.
But without the voice, it will be incomplete. That will have to be recreated inside the heads of those who heard it most often, and cared most what words it carried. It is there where Bob Murphy’s memory will thrive – as someone who defined Stanford in ways that no marketing campaign ever could.
Steve Kerr has been the standard by which all other coaches have been measured in these parts since he arrived in Oakland – rescued as it was from the nine hells of the New York Knickerbockers. He is indeed so good that he is still getting credit for the 50 wins he actually didn’t fully merit – the 39 that belong to Luke Walton and the 11 that are Mike Brown’s.
But this is not to slag Kerr’s record – which even if you eliminate the 55 games he hasn’t coached in his three years because of his back issue is still the best in NBA history – but to remind you that David Shaw still exists, he still is supervising the golden age of Stanford football, and he is just as unavailable to pro teams as he ever was.
Shaw, whose team opens its season on Saturday night in Australia against Rice, has been beneath the radar since the day he arrived, for no better reasons than (a) the Bay Area doesn’t hold much stock in college football and (b) he likes it that way. His excellence is indisputable, but he is also in the perfect place to do his job without any of the irritants that surround most college coaches – media, embittered alumni, NCAA investigators, the late night call from the cops about your outside linebacker overturning a minivan, that kind of thing.
He has worn down all attempts to question him on his next job because, while he could get one at the snap of a finger, he was not infected with the standard coach’s ambition to see and be seen. He has seen the sport’s many excesses and has decided to ward off the ones that directly touch him.
He still believes in the game’s virtues, and can probably be considered a fairly doctrinaire figure on most issues confronting the sport and its practitioners, but does not have to pretend that he is too focused on the job to be interested in mundane things like eclipses, political turmoil, social justice and all the other noxious things that happen outside the cocoon.
But be not fooled. He likes the cocoon that is Stanford, and he has the sense to understand that the chance of a better job existing is almost infinitesimal. He may someday want something more public and lucrative, but until money and fame get a long winning streak going at his house, he’ll sit quietly, the second-best coach in the Bay Area and the first-best at making you not remember that he is just that.