Surprising Bulls using team effort

After beating Rutgers and Villanova, Stan Heath's squad is riding a two-game conference winning streak and is undefeated in 2012.

All of a sudden South Florida is a player in the Big East.

The Bulls entered the week of Jan. 9 on a two-game winning streak, beating Rutgers at home and then winning on the road at Villanova.

It was the Bulls' first road victory of the season and, more impressive, just their seventh road victory in seven seasons since becoming a member of the Big East.

What's more, they could not have found a tougher place for it, Villanova having lost only once before in the last 53 games at its on-campus home known as the Pavilion, with that previous loss coming at the hands of Pitt.

The Bulls are performing their turnaround in the most difficult way, for they have no star player pulling them along behind him. They had no one among the top 20 scorers in the conference, through Sunday, and no one among the assist leaders while big man Augustus Gilchrist ranked just 19th in rebounding with Toarlyn Fitzpatrick 13th with 6.7 rebounds a game.

In truth, it is two players who have yet to receive a lot of publicity that have made a huge difference. One is senior Ron Anderson Jr., who has been tremendously efficient by hitting 60.5 percent of his field-goal tries to rank second in the Big East while pulling in 5.6 rebounds a game entering the week.

Anderson Jr., Gilchrist and Fitzpatrick give USF a powerful rebounding edge over many teams.

Then there is freshman guard Anthony Collins, who has given them an exciting point guard to run the show and add life to an offense that had been stagnant.

 

NOTES, QUOTES

--South Florida made its first road win of the year and seventh in seven years count. The Bulls knocked off host Villanova, which had lost at its Pavilion only once in the past 53 games.

The win put the Bulls at 9-7 overall and 2-1 in the Big East. It dropped Villanova to 8-8 overall and 1-3 in the conference.

--Senior Ron Anderson Jr. has been stunning in his precision from the field, hitting 60.5 percent of his shots, through Sunday. That mark was good enough for second place in the Big East entering the week.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- The number of road games South Florida won this season through Sunday, after finally earning a tough one, by beating Villanova.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've been knocking on the door recently, and I think our team is growing in terms of being more tough, finishing games down the stretch and understanding their roles." -- Coach Stan Heath, quoted in the Tampa Tribune, after upsetting Villanova.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Notre Dame, Jan. 10

KEY MATCHUPS: Notre Dame has been struggling to find an identity but the Irish enter this game off a huge double overtime victory over nationally ranked Louisville on the road. The Irish have won three of their last four and five of their last seven. To win again on the road, South Florida will have to play near a perfect game and, at the same time, figure out a way to deal with the balance Notre Dame has in its scoring and rebounding.

Against Louisville F Jack Cooley led with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Jerian Grant scored 17 points, and Eric Atkins finished with 15 points. Scott Martin also chipped in a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Atkins is slick running the show and is the man they look to in clutch situations.

--vs. Seton Hall, Jan. 13

KEY MATCHUPS: Seton Hall is an improved team built around the inside strength of Herb Pope, a candidate for Player of the Year. The Pirates enter the new week having 11 of 12 games, the only loss being at No. 1 Syracuse, and have three nice victories in a row over West Virginia, Connecticut and on the road at Providence. Pope is averaging a double-double, ranking sixth in scoring in the Big East at 17.9 points a game, and second in rebounding at 10.7 a game.

The Pirates' driving force, however, may be G Jordan Theodore, who averages 15.6 points a game and has 118 assists to just 40 turnovers, leading the conference in assists and standing second in assist-to-turnover ratio.

FUTURES MARKET: The Bulls are encouraged by the play of Jawanza Poland, who missed the first 11 games of the season with a back injury. He was a big cog in the victory over Villanova and it is no accident the team won twice since his return.

"I feel real good out there playing running up and down the court," he told the Tampa Tribune. "I feel like I'm up 100 percent."

Coach Stan Heath has noticed Poland's play.

"Jawanza stepped up in big way and really carried that load," Heath said.

Poland led the Bulls against Villanova by scoring 20 points.

PLAYER NOTES

--G Anthony Collins, who had been the engine driving South Florida, fell and hit his head on the floor while attempting a first-half layup against Villanova, exiting after playing just 17 minutes. There has been no announcement if he will ready for Tuesday's game at Notre Dame.

--Ron Anderson Jr. is in his last season and making the most of it by operating in the shadows, doing the tough work. When the Bulls defeated Rutgers, Anderson chipped in with 15 points, his most points since Nov. 30 against VCU, while adding six offensive rebounds and taking three charges.

 

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