Bulls looks to keep it going against Friars

After winning five of ts last seven games, USF has improved to to 14-10 overall, and 7-4 in the Big East, putting them into a a three-way tie for fifth place. With the last-place Friars on tap, The Bulls could keep rising up in the standings.

With last-place Friars on tap, USF could keep rising up standings

Considering South Florida's overall lack of success since joining the Big East for the 2005-06 season, it is easy to have doubts about the success the Bulls are enjoying in conference play this winter.

However, South Florida goes into its game at Providence on Saturday seemingly having eradicated any uncertainties it might have felt.

South Florida snapped Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak with a 63-51 home victory Wednesday, convincingly putting aside a 30-point loss at Georgetown four days earlier. The game against the Hoyas was South Florida's worst-ever Big East loss.

The win over Pittsburgh was South Florida's fifth in its last seven games, and it raised the Bulls' record to 14-10 overall, 7-4 in the Big East. The Bulls were in a three-way tie for fifth place. The only other time South Florida has won as many as four Big East games in a season was in 2009-10, when it went 9-9 inside the conference and finished in a tie for ninth.

Providence (13-12, 2-10) was last in the Big East through Wednesday and had lost five of its last six games. The Friars, though, are explosive, as they have four scoring threats: junior guard Vincent Council (16.1 points a game), sophomore guard Bryce Cotton (15.4), sophomore guard Gerard Coleman (14.3) and freshman forward LaDontae Henton (13.8).

South Florida beat Providence 81-78 at home Jan. 29. Senior guard Hugh Robertson had 15 points, three assists and three steals, and freshman guard Anthony Collins had 15 points and six assists. Senior forward Ron Anderson added 14 points, junior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick scored 13 points and senior forward Augustus Gilchrist chipped in with 11 points.

Henton poured in 33 points for Providence, while Cotton had 16 points and Council posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.

South Florida shot 51 percent and committed just five turnovers.

TRENDING: South Florida is playing its home games off campus at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa this season while the Sun Dome gets an extensive makeover. Even so, the Forum has become the friendly confines for the Bulls. They raised their home record to 12-1 with the win over Pitt, leaving them one win away from the school record for most home victories in a season, set in 2002-03.



<Headline>Bulls are still thinking NCAA tourney</Headline>

Even a 30-point loss at Georgetown hasn't dimmed South Florida's hopes for a run to the NCAA tournament a bit.

The Bulls reached the halfway point at 9-3 and possessing the best defense in the Big East.

Yes, they knew they had accomplished nothing at that point and the road loss on Feb. 4 to the Hoyas served only as an exclamation point, but they were ready to push forward.

"We've got the back nine of this league, and it is a little bit harder than the front nine we've had," Heath said to his local newspapers. "We've done more than everyone expected us to do, but there's still a lot more that we need to do."

The Bulls entered the second half of the year knowing it was them against the world.

"Right now, they're saying, 'Is it all a fluke?'" junior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who hit clutch shots in the second half of the Bulls' last win against Providence, told the Tampa Times. "They're wondering, 'Are they going to be able to keep it going?" with the tougher half of the schedule that we have. I think that's going to be a motivation for us to keep going well and prove some of those guys wrong."

This is just the second time since joining the Big East that the Bulls have found themselves in position to earn an NIT bid and possible an NCAA bid. The team is thinking NCAA, not NIT.

"They want it. I know our seniors want it. Everybody on the team would like to play in the postseason and would love to play in the NCAA tournament," Heath said. "It's too early, but every game is huge in order to get there ... In the back of my head, I would feel very comfortable if we duplicated what we just did in the first nine. That may be even more than we need to do, but I would feel very comfortable with that."

--USF apparently is not an early-rising group. Scheduled to play a morning game at Georgetown, the Bulls had a 7 a.m. wakeup and 7:30 a.m. breakfast, then went on to lose by 30, the most one-sided loss of the year.

--The Bulls' secret to success is quite easy to figure out and that is to take care of the basketball. Through Feb. 5, they were 1-7 when they had more than 15 turnovers, 12-2 when they have fewer than 15. "We did the same thing against Marquette. We had 22 in that game. When we've had losses, that's typically the magic number that sticks out for us," coach Stan Heath told the Tampa Tribune.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 -- The number of points scored by F/C Augustus Gilchrist to be the only double-figure scorer for the Bulls as they lost by 30 to Georgetown on Feb. 4, their worst Big East loss ever.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've put ourselves in position to maybe be a blip in the discussion. We need to do a lot more work. We need some major wins." -- Coach Stan Heath, quoted in the Tampa Times, on the Bulls' chances for an NCAA bid.




--at Providence, Feb. 11

KEY MATCHUPS: This is a quick rematch between these teams, South Florida having taken the first meeting at home on Jan. 29, 81-78. The Bulls must find a way to stop Friar freshman LaDontae Henton, who went off for a career-high 33 points in that game. Providence is a much tougher team to defeat at home than on the road. The Bulls, who had won six of eight before losing to Georgetown on Feb. 4, put five players into double figures in the first meeting with the Friars.

FUTURES MARKET: Junior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick originally signed with Georgia Southern and seemed destined to play there until the school changed coaches, opening the door for FSU to offer him the last scholarship it had. It was the school he wanted to attend in the first place and was thrilled when the offer came and has been paying it back. Now, halfway through his junior year, he has emerged as a key player for the Bulls and they are looking forward to him finishing his career in high gear.



--Senior G Hugh Robertson played one of the finest all-around games of his career in South Florida's 63-51 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Robertson was made all seven of his field-goal attempts, and he finished with a season-high 18 points. Just as important, he played a key role in holding Pitt All-America G Ashton Gibbs to a season-low four points. Gibbs didn't score his first field goal until a little more than five minutes remained.

--Senior F Augustus Gilchrist helped made South Florida coach Stan Heath's strategy of going inside against Pittsburgh work. Gilchrist scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and helped South Florida hold a 36-26 advantage in points in the paint. He also scored in double figures for a third consecutive game.

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