WHO: George Mason (7-4) at USF (7-3)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Sun Dome
TV: Bright House Sports Network (Adam Kohler and Anddrikk Frazier)
RADIO: 98.7-FM The Fan (Jim Lighthall and Todd Kalas); Sirius 132; XM 192
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Soon after the Bulls' NCAA tournament run, Victor Rudd wanted feedback on how to get better.
The 6-foot-9 forward shined under the national spotlight, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in postseason play before testing the NBA waters without an agent. Rudd ultimately decided to return to the Bulls with two more years of eligibility remaining.
"Being evaluated by some of the NBA teams was a great opportunity for me to receive advice on areas of my game that I need to improve on," Rudd said in a statement.
What followed was dedication, more than 10 pounds of added muscle and a need to be a leader after seeing solid bigs Ron Anderson Jr. and Augustus Gilchrist move on after graduation. Rudd's eyes really opened up after USF was outrebounded, 45-26, by UCF in a season-opening loss and from then on he's been a force that's gaining strength with time.
"I want to be the leading rebounder the rest of the year, so I have to go get it," said Rudd, who is up to 8.1 boards per game.
Rudd's maturation hasn't hampered his scoring ability, however, and his talent was on full showcase in USF's 87-84 win over Bowling Green in triple overtime on Dec. 21. Rudd finished with a season-high 29 points and the way he went about it helped earn him USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week honors. Rudd hit a 3-pointer that tied the game with 3.8 seconds left in regulation, did the same thing with 28 seconds remaining in the second overtime and dropped in the go-ahead bucket with 13 seconds to go in the final overtime period.
"You love to be a part of a game like that," he said.
So what followed was an explanation of how that was Rudd's best-ever game, right?
"It's probably No. 2 just because I've never gotten 16 rebounds before, so that's my best game ever 16 and 16, but this is No. 2 right here," he said.
Rudd was referring to USF's prior game, a 72-54 win over Youngstown State, when he grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with 16 points.
"It shows he's really maturing because I saw it the same way," head coach Stan Heath said. "To get 16 rebounds in a game, and the way he did it offensively, I thought it was truly his best all-around performance. (Bowling Green) was probably his best clutch performance where he had to make clutch plays."
Catch Rudd and the Bulls shoot for their third straight win 7 p.m. Saturday against George Mason at the Sun Dome. After a trip to UCF on Wednesday, USF heads back home to face Syracuse in its Big East opener Sunday, Jan. 6 at noon.