By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – USF hit the accelerator in the second half and rolled past Youngstown State, 72-54, on Tuesday night at the Sun Dome.
The Bulls trailed by six with less than 15 minutes to play before finishing with a 33-9 run that helped them improve to 6-3 overall and 5-2 at home this season. Youngstown State (6-5) hit six of its first 10 shots after the break, but went 8-for-21 the rest of the way and didn’t have a field goal in the final 9 minutes, 47 seconds before seeing its three-game winning streak get snapped.
“I thought our defense kept turning it up, and turning it up, and we finally were able to get the stops we needed,” USF head coach Stan Heath said.
Victor Rudd posted a career-high 16 rebounds and a season-high 16 points in USF’s first game since a loss at Oklahoma State on Dec. 5.
“It makes me feel good as a player because when I rebound everything else comes easy,” he said.
Anthony Collins added 14 points and seven assists, while Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added 11 points in the series’ second installment. USF defeated the Penguins, 63-56, ironically on the same day in 1984.
“I think we know we have all the pieces. It’s the point of putting everything together and just playing together as a team,” said Collins, who went 7-for-12 from the field.
Dunks by Rudd and Fitzpatrick capped off USF’s 7-0 run to open the game while the Penguins missed their first six shots and took more than three minutes to score.
Youngstown State heated up quickly after a timeout and used a 9-0 run to take a 14-11 lead, powered by three straight 3-pointers. The lead changed hands twice before Rudd went on a 7-0 run of his own to put the Bulls ahead, 24-18, and the redshirt junior headed into the break with 10 points.
The aggressive Penguins kept firing away from long range and used two straight 3-pointers by Kendrick Perry to grab a 29-27 lead with less than four minutes to go before halftime. Perry, the Penguins’ top scorer, made four of Youngstown State’s seven 3-pointers in the half and his buzzer-beating layup tied things up at 33.
“We didn’t give the respect Perry really deserved,” Heath said.
Perry had 14 points in the first half, but scored just one more after the break before fouling out with 5:49 to play while his team went 0-for-10 from the field after his exit.
“We let their best player go off in the first half and we wanted to focus on trying to shut him down,” Rudd said.
Youngstown State became the sixth team to be held under 60 points this season against USF and the Penguins were hampered by a 27.6 shooting percentage after halftime.
They made a bunch of baskets and we were pretty poor in transition all night. That was the major factor,” Penguins head coach Jerry Slocum said.
USF stays home to battle Bowling Green 7 p.m. Friday and hosts Geoge Mason on Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. before it wraps up the non-conference portion of the schedule at UCF on Wednesday, Jan. 2. The Bulls’ first Big East game is Sunday, Jan. 6 against Syracuse at noon inside the Sun Dome.
-The Bulls played without injured Shaun Noriega (foot) and Javontae Hawkins (back).
-USF improved to 5-2 at home this season and has won its past three games at the Sun Dome.
-The Bulls committed 10 turnovers after coming into the game ranked 11th in the country in turnover average (10.4).-Musa Abdul-Aleem scored eight points and played 16 minutes in his second game as a Bull.