The Birth of Big-Time Basketball at USF

If Coach Stan Heath can convince star guard Dominique Jones to return for his senior season, we may have witnessed the birth of a big-time basketball school in South Florida.

The birth announcement came in the final regular-season game as the Bulls downed traditional Big East power Connecticut, 75-68. While it's true UConn is suffering through a difficult season, South Florida beating the Huskies under any circumstance wasn't even dreamed of a few years back.

South Florida's Chris Howard knows that's true. He's a senior point guard who saw the program grow and enjoyed his Senior Day against the Huskies.

"I think that's what every senior dreams about, walking off the floor Senior Night as a winner," Howard told the St. Petersburg Times. "To do it against a program like this makes it even bigger."

"It's a big win for our program, (against) a team with the tradition and history of UConn, with a lot riding on it for both teams," Heath said.

It was the first time South Florida had beaten UConn after seven losses and it gave the Bulls a three-game winning streak to carry into the Big East Tournament.

Jones, the team's high scorer, had 20 points against UConn, and forward Gus Gilchrist, who has been a force since missing two months with injury, added 17. Jones and Gilchrist present a very difficult defensive challenge for any team, and if they could somehow put a whole season together it would be interesting.

Notes, quotes

--Senior G Chris Howard had five assists against Connecticut, leaving him just five short of tying Tommy Tonelli for fourth all-time in assists at USF.

--Senior G Mike Mercer has become a horse on the boards. He grabbed eight rebounds to lead USF against UConn and has pulled down seven or more in three straight games.

--G Dominique Jones is the only player in the nation to average more than 20 points, six rebounds and three assists a game.

ON THE SPOT
F Jarrid Famous may be the critical player for South Florida in the Big East Tournament. To win this tournament you have to rebound and be tough inside because that is the nature of the conference and the building in which the tournament is held -- Madison Square Garden. Famous has shown an ability to score, owning 17 double-figure games, but many of those came when Gus Gilchrist was out. What Famous most needs to do is rebound big time, something he has also shown he can do. He has nine double-figure rebounding games.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"I told the coaches after the game: pack five suits. Don't come up there with one and say you've got to go to the dry cleaners. This team's hungry, and I think we're headed straight up the mountain. I'm not going to stop." -- Senior Chris Howard to the St. Petersburg Times.

Strategy and personnel

SEASON RECAP
South Florida grew by leaps and bounds this season with G Dominique Jones leading the way. For much of the season the Bulls looked about as expected, but they caught fire in late January, winning four straight games, including an upset of No. 7 Georgetown on the road. They won four consecutive home games and five of seven overall before suffering a disappointing home upset at the hands of a struggling St. John's team. They also swept Providence, the third straight year they have swept a Big East opponent.

PLAYER ROTATION
Usual Starters -- PG Anthony Crater, G Chris Howard, G Dominique Jones, G Mike Mercer, F Gus Gilchrist, F Jarrid Famous. Key Sub -- F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick.

GAME REVIEW

South Florida 99, Providence 93

South Florida 63, DePaul 59

South Florida 75, Connecticut 68

GAME PREVIEW

vs. DePaul at Big East Tournament, Tuesday, March 9

IN FOCUS
South Florida has a quick turnaround in playing DePaul. The Blue Demons gave the Bulls all they could want March 2, losing by just four points. It was the third straight time USF has defeated DePaul. South Florida held its largest rebounding margin of the year over DePaul in the game. G Dominique Jones scored 20 points for USF.

ROSTER REPORT

--G Dominique Jones moved into third place all-time in single-season scoring for South Florida with his 20 points against Connecticut. He now has 640 points and 13 to go past Charlie Bradley, who had 652 in 1984-85.

--Jones is ready to pass Bradley for the most free throws made in a season. He enters the Big East Tournament with 188 made. Bradley sank 189 in 1982-83.


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