TAMPA - USF made its Big East/SEC Challenge experience a success by
outperforming Georgia in crunch time Friday night.
Anthony Collins’ jumper and foul shot with 3:33 to go broke
up a tie game and sparked a 14-3 Bulls run in their 64-53 victory over the
Bulldogs before a crowd of 5,167 at the Sun Dome. USF (5-2) extended its
winning streak to three games and held an opponent to fewer than 60 points for
the fifth time in the past six contests.
“We want to do it for the Big East, but we also want to do
it for ourselves for when it’s NCAA tournament time, when it’s time for
selection,” said Collins, who posted a team-high 17 points and 10 assists.
Collins saved his best basketball for late in the game and
wound up scoring half of USF’s 14 points during the decisive run. All of that
was accomplished after Collins missed Monday’s win over Stetson with a sore
“We put a lot on him. We put the ball in his hands and we
expect him to be the playmaker,” head coach Stan Heath said. “I think he
relishes that position and he’s doing a great job with it.”
The pivotal play of the game came off a Collins assist when
he dished the ball out to Victor Rudd, whose 3-point attempt found a way to
beat the shot clock and swirl into the rim to give the Bulls a 57-50 advantage
with only 1:59 to play.
“Vic’s known to make those going back to the NCAA tournament
last year,” Collins said. “He made a couple off the backboard. I gave him the
ball and he did the rest.”
“It was a real dagger for us,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox
Rudd finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, while
Toaryln Fitzpatrick continued his hot start with 13 points (3-for-4 from
3-point range). Shaun Noriega continued to show his progression from last
season by putting up 15 points and he delivered USF’s initial “dagger” from
long range at the end of the first half.
USF designed a 3-point play for Noriega right before the
break and the senior connected from beyond NBA range with just 3 seconds to
spare to give the Bulls a 27-22 lead at the break. Fitzpatrick started 3-for-4
from the field and had seven points while Collins and Noriega each had six
apiece. Collins also assisted half of the Bulls’ eight field goals in the
“That was the difference in the game, just the way we closed
things out (in both periods),” Heath said.
NBA prospect Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the lone Bulldog
in double figures with 19 points and Fox noted the Georgia defense had a hard
time disrupting the Bulls’ rhythm on offense.
“You can’t just allow them to shoot 47 percent from the
field and win,” Fox said.
USF now gears up for another key non-conference battle that
takes place 9 p.m. Wednesday at Oklahoma State. It also marks the Bulls’ final
game until Tuesday, Dec. 18 when they host Youngstown State.
“I think we’re now figuring out who we are and what we can
do,” Heath said. “Once the guys really understand what we can do and how we can
be effective to win games - that’s what’s going to make us a good team. We’re
getting closer and I still don’t think we’re firing on all cylinders.”