Bulls continue their impressive turnaround

After being picked to finish 14th in the Big East preseason coaches' poll, USF has won back-to-back games and four of their last five as Stan Heath's squad improved to 11-8 overall and 4-2 in the Big East. The Bulls already has more wins than last year, and there are still at least 13 games remaining. USF finds itself in a three-way tie for fourth place and now travels to DePaul

South Florida can now say it has already had a better season than last year. And there are still at least 13 games remaining in this season.

USF improved to 11-8 overall and 4-2 in the Big East by beating visiting St. John's 64-49 on Jan. 18. The Bulls have more wins both overall and in conference play than last season when they were 10-23, 3-15.

Picked to finish 14th in the Big East in the preseason coaches' poll, South Florida finds itself in a three-way tie for fourth place with No. 21 Marquette (15-4, 4-2) and West Virginia (14-5, 4-2).

The Bulls have won back-to-back games and four of their last five going into its game at DePaul on Jan. 22. DePaul (10-8, 1-5), meanwhile, is on a four-game losing streak. South Florida's task against DePaul will be stopping the sophomore tandem of forward Cleveland Melvin and guard Brandon Young. Melvin is averaging 18.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots a game and Young has averages of 16.8 points, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals a game.

South Florida has won six straight games against DePaul, including two last season, 71-60 at home and 86-76 on the road.

In the game at Tampa, Hugh Robertson led South Florida with 16 points while Jawanza Poland had 11 points, four steals and three assists and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added 11 points. Melvin had 17 points, four blocked shots, three assists and three steals for DePaul and Young finished with 11 points.

In the rematch at Rosemont, South Florida's Augustus Gilchrist scored a career-high 32 points, Shaun Noriega had 13 points and Robertson added 12 points. DePaul got 23 points from Young.

NOTES, QUOTES
Bulls top their best Big East start

--At 4-2, this is the first time South Florida has a winning Big East record six games into the season.
--While South Florida found a way to beat Seton Hall during the week, it also created a sure path to defeat in a loss to Notre Dame, managing only four assists against 13 turnovers while hitting just 1 of 13 3-points shots, that by big man Augustus Gilchrist.
BY THE NUMBERS: 58.1 -- The number of points South Florida was allowing opponents to score this season, through the weekend, the best total in the Big East.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think they're a top-tier team (in the Big East), I really do. Their size really bothered us. They're going to be in every game because of their size." -- Seton Hall Coach Ralph Willard, in the Tampa Tribune, after being upset by South Florida.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at DePaul, Jan. 22
KEY MATCHUPS: For a while this looked like it might be a battle between the two worst teams in the league but South Florida has really put it together and while DePaul has not found a winning formula yet, it is vastly improved. The challenge for South Florida will be to find ways to score against the pressing defense of DePaul while, at the same time, controlling F Cleveland Melvin and G Brandon Young, two of the best offensive players in the conference. Melvin has slumped lately while Young is holding his own.

TRENDING: South Florida has been playing outstanding defense since Big East play began. The Bulls have held five of their six opponents in conference play to at least 10 points under their season average. The latest was St. John's in a 64-49 win on Jan. 18 as the Red Storm came into the game scoring 66.1 points a game. South Florida has also held down Connecticut, Villanova, Notre Dame and Seton Hall while allowing a conference-best 58 points a game against Big East opponents.

FUTURES MARKET: Against Villanova, the South Florida bench was important, scoring 48 points as G Jawanza Poland scored 20 but in a loss to Notre Dame it was almost non-existent, save for Poland. Coach Stan Heath called him a "lone ranger" off the bench as he produced 12 points. The way Heath has it set up now, Poland is the first man off the bench and doing an outstanding job of creating offense for the team.

PLAYER NOTES
--Sophomore F Victor Rudd scored a game-high 24 points against St. John's on Jan. 18, all in the second half, and the performance seemingly came out of nowhere. The Arizona State transfer failed to reach double figures in the previous eight games, scoring 33 points in that span for a 4.1 a game average. Rudd had 30 points in a win over Marist on Nov. 14 in South Florida's second game of the season but has been in double digits just four times in 17 games since. His season scoring average is 9.1.

--Senior C Augustus Gilchrist was 0-for-4 from the field and finished with just four points against St. John's. It was his second-lowest scoring output of the season as he was held to two points in a loss to Penn State on Nov. 20. South Florida does not have anyone among the Big East's top 30 scorers and Gilchrist is the only Bulls player in double figures with a 10.4 point a game average that ranks 38th in the conference.

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