It is why James Beatty's second-half outburst was so pivotal to what the rest of Rutgers' season could be, because without it, the Scarlet Knights may not have recovered from another slow second-half start and doubt could have surfaced.
Beatty's 3-pointer stopped a 5-0 run by South Florida starting the second half, triggered his own 18-point second half and was the impetus for the Scarlet Knights' 71-62 defeat of the Bulls on Thursday in front of 5,347 at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
Beatty finished with 20 points and made 4 of 8 shots from 3-point range as Rutgers (11-7, 2-4 Big East) won for the second time in seven games.
"I know what everyone is going to ask; why don't you shoot more?" Beatty said. "I don't (have an answer). Every day after practice I'm always shooting. I even got in the paint today. Look at that."
Rutgers also had two conference wins at its earliest point since beginning the 2005-06 season with a 2-4 league mark.
Rutgers power forward Jonathan Mitchell also added 20 points and senior guard Mike Coburn, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Mike Poole, added 13 points and three assists with no turnovers in 32 minutes.
"The win means everything," Mitchell said. "The season is still young. We're 2-4, and last year we weren't 2-4 at this time. We were hanging our heads. This is renewed energy."
Rutgers was plagued by slow second-half starts in losses to Villanova, Connecticut and Georgetown, and was heading that way when South Florida (7-13, 1-6) opened the second half with Augustus Gilchrist's lay-up and Shaun Noriega's 3-pointer as the Bulls took a 30-25 lead. That is when Beatty, who averages 6.3 shots per game but went 8 for 14, moved to the offensive forefront.
"In the second half we struggled to score, we had breakdowns, and I'm tired of it," Beatty said. "I really am, because we work so hard to be in games. …Me and J-Mitch were talking about it. We just couldn't let that happen."
Three straight Beatty 3-pointers gave Rutgers a 34-30 lead with 17:46 to play, and a pair of lay-ups later in the half tied the game twice.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Coburn and Beatty then gave Rutgers the lead for good, 50-46, with 7:58 to play.
"We explained to (Beatty) at halftime he needs to shoot, and he needs to penetrate," Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. "He's done it. He's shooting 48 percent from 3-point (range) in Big East play. It's a difference. We need more scoring."
Any sense of late drama was then snuffed out when USF's Jawanza Poland (3 of 14, 11 points) missed while trying to tomahawk a dunk with the Bulls down seven and 4:26 to play.
Rutgers answered quickly with a lay-in by Coburn and a leaner by Beatty to make it 61-50 with 3:19 to play.
"I just didn't like the way we played today, we got beat on a lot of hustle plays and allot of loose balls," USF coach Stan Heath said. "We were not aggressive on the defensive end. Our defense kind of went backwards as the game went on. We also didn't show any patience against their defense, we didn't move the ball from side to side like we should have.
"A big part of that was Rutgers, but I think more so it was us."