Welcome to the party, USF!
So you don't think the Bulls belong in the NCAA Tournament discussion?
Turns out, they might have an argument.
--The Bulls have won five of six overall, four straight in the Big East and two in a row over ranked teams.
--USF has one of the best players in the country in Dominique Jones, who is averaging 29.4 points in his last nine games.
--And they've done it all without their top big man, Augustus Gilchrist, who is expected back as early as Sunday when the team travels to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish.
The Bulls opened some eyes with the victory over the weekend against Pitt. They now have all the eyes of the Big East upon them. The Bulls are good. The question now is how good.
This is another game that sets up well for USF. The Irish head into their game against Cincinnati on Thursday having lost four of five including a loss to previously winless Rutgers. ND needs a strong run to even garner NCAA Tournament consideration.
SOUTH FLORIDA 72, GEORGETOWN 64: The Bulls created some whispers around the Big East with their win over Pittsburgh on Sunday. Well, those whispers are roaring screams after USF knocked off the No. 7 Hoyas on the road.
Dominique Jones scored 22 of his game-high 29 points in the second half as the Bulls rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit, outscoring their hosts 46-29 after intermission.
USF, winners of four straight and two in a row over ranked teams, improved to 15-7 overall and 5-5 in the Big East. Georgetown falls to 16-5 overall, 6-4 in the conference.
The Bulls trailed 35-22 with 2:01 left in the half before cutting the deficit to 35-26 at the break.
Two free throws by Mike Mercer tied the game at 42-42 with 12:28 to play. Mercer's layup with 8:02 to play gave the Bulls a 52-44 lead. A free throw by Greg Monroe (21 points) brought Georgetown to within 57-55 with 3:28 to play, but the Bulls held on the rest of the way.
USF shot 49 percent from the floor, including 65.2 percent (15 of 23) in the second half, and only turned the ball over eight times.
--F Augustus Gilchrist (severe ankle sprain) is practicing, but is still not at 100 percent. The 6-10 sophomore could see some minutes on Sunday at Notre Dame. The Bulls hope he is at full strength by the time the team plays at Marquette on Feb. 13. Gilchrist has only played in eight games this season, but was averaging 18.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
--Junior guard Dominique Jones owns the second half. He didn't score in the first 12 minutes against the Hoyas and had just seven points at the break. But he exploded with 22 points in the second half. In his last five games, Jones has scored 47 points in the first half and an amazing 98 points in the second half. Jones had 37 points in the Bulls' win Sunday over Pitt.
--Mike Mercer provided a nice Scottie Pippen to Jones' Michael Jordan. The senior guard made 5 of 9 shots from the floor and finished with 12 points and six rebounds against Georgetown. He struggled a bit in the win over Pitt, scoring nine points on 3 of 7 shooting. But he's a key player for the Bulls who just needs to find some consistency.
ON THE SPOT: The Bulls are hitting their free throws. Georgetown hit a few threes late in Wednesday night's game, but some solid free-throwing shooting by the Bulls kept them at arm's length. USF was only hitting 68 percent from free-throw line this year. They made just 19 of 31 at the line against the Hoyas but hit them when they counted -- at the end.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "A game like that does a lot for your team in terms of confidence, enthusiasm and things like that." -- USF Coach Stan Heath, in the Tampa Tribune, on the effect G Dominque Jones' 46-point outburst against Providence had on his team, which went on to win a second straight overtime game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: South Florida appears to be one of the most improved teams in the conference. The Bulls came into the season hoping to be in that situation but have grown as the year went on, riding on G Dominique Jones' shoulders while trying to survive without F Gus Gilchrist. Jones has been spectacular, leading the Big East in scoring, topping it off with 46 points against Providence. The Bulls recently won consecutive overtime games.
South Florida 109, Providence 105 (OT)
South Florida 76, Seton Hall 74 (OT)
South Florida 70, Pittsburgh 61
South Florida 72, Georgetown 64
at Notre Dame, Sunday, Feb. 7
at Marquette, Saturday, Feb. 13
vs. Cincinnati, Tuesday, Feb. 16
vs. St. John's, Saturday, Feb. 20
IN FOCUS: If South Florida is as improved as it seems to be, then it should really benefit from adding F Gus Gilchrist, who has been out almost two months with an ankle injury, for a three-game road trip that sends the Bulls to Georgetown, Notre Dame and Marquette.
--G Dominique Jones was named the Big East Player of the Week after compiling the second-highest scoring total in a Big East game in history, a school-record 46 points against Providence. He added 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals. For the week he averaged 33.5 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
--F Gus Gilchrist, out since Dec. 7 with an ankle sprain, is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday at Georgetown. Gilchrist was leading the Bulls in scoring with an 18.8 average when injured. The team went 5-6 without him.