TAMPA – The Bulls saw a shot at a fifth straight win over
Villanova slip away early Wednesday night.
A 3-pointer by Toarlyn Fitzpatrick gave USF its lone lead of
the game in the first three minutes as the Wildcats used a strong inside game
to beat the Bulls, 61-53, before a crowd of 5,014 at the Sun Dome.
"You have to come ready to play from the beginning and we didn't
do that," said Fitzpatrick, who finished with 10 points in USF's second
consecutive loss to open up Big East play.
Mouphtaou Yarou led three Wildcats in double figures with 16
points and his 13 rebounds helped his team finish with a 42-32 edge on the
boards. Villanova also had a 30-14 advantage in points in the paint as the Wildcats
(11-4, 2-0) recorded their first win over USF since Jan. 6, 2011. The teams
will meet back up Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Pavilion in Villanova, Pa.
Victor Rudd led USF (9-5, 0-2) with 12 points while battling
the flu bug along with Jawanza Poland, who finished with four points and six
rebounds. Anthony Collins also was in double figures with 11 points, but USF
shot just 36 percent from the field.
"I think that was probably the best game we've played this
year. That was our best defensive effort," said head coach Jay Wright of his
Villanova team that's won seven in a row.
The Wildcats' success close to the hoop started early and
helped them grab a 34-20 halftime lead while the Bulls started 7-for-23 from
the field. Yarou's 10 rebounds helped Villanova grab a 26-15 edge on the boards
while the Wildcats started with an 18-4 advantage in points in the paint.
"The start was helpful before they could get into a rhythm,"
Wright said. "They're a dangerous team when you get behind on them. We know
last year we got behind them three times, and once you get behind them it's
USF had been outrebounded just once in its past five games
heading into the battle with the Wildcats and head coach Stan Heath said Villanova's
size was an issue.
"Give their bigs credit. Villanova's bigs dominated the game
tonight and we just didn't have an answer," he said.
Villanova pumped its lead up to 18 with a 4-0 run to start
the second half and the Wildcats kept their advantage in double digits until a Rudd
3-pointer cut it to 49-41 with 7:04 to play. Villanova answered with two
straight field goals in the paint by Yarou and Daniel Ochefu, and the Wildcats'
lead never dipped below double digits until JaVontae Hawkins' buzzer-beating
3-pointer at the end.
"I think the most important thing we can do right now is
watch the film and fix some of the things we can fix," Heath said.
The Bulls have a shot to bounce back in a big way 4 p.m.
Saturday when take on No. 3 Louisville in Kentucky. USF stays on the road to face
Rutgers on Thursday, Jan. 17 before returning to the Sun Dome to host
Georgetown on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m.
- Kore White missed his fourth straight game with
a foot injury.
- Shaun Noriega was out for the fifth straight game with a foot