WHO: USF (9-6, 0-3) at Rutgers (11-4, 2-2)
WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, N.J.
TV: ESPN2 (Bram Weinstein and Dereck Whittenburg)
RADIO: 98.7-FM The Fan (Jim Lighthall and Alex Perlman)
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The Bulls shoot for a much-needed win in front of a national audience Thursday night.
The USF men's basketball looks to avoid an 0-4 start to Big East play when it faces Rutgers at 9 p.m. in Piscataway, N.J. The game will be televised on ESPN2, marking the third nationally televised game this season for the Bulls (9-6, 0-3).
The Scarlet Knights (11-4, 2-2) are 7-2 at the Rutgers Athletic Center this season and had their two-game Big East winning streak snapped Saturday at home with a 68-58 loss to then-No. 21/20 Cincinnati.
USF strengthened its NCAA tournament resume last season with a 67-65 victory over Rutgers at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Bulls again will face off against two very talented guards. Eli Carter scored 23 points in the last meeting and Rutgers got 14 more from Myles Mack. Carter currently leads Rutgers in scoring at 18.4 points per game and Mack is second on the team at 14.5 points per game.
"Those two guys really lead their team. When they play well, they usually win," USF assistant coach Steve Roccaforte said.
Rutgers likes to use an aggressive attack and has benefitted from the long range ability of its top scorers. Carter and Mack have combined to make 41 of Rutgers' 52 3-pointers, and Roccaforte said USF must be ready to defend immediately after the Scarlet Knights pass midcourt.
"Transition defense is going to be huge in this game because they really push the ball and shoot deep threes," he said. "Their posts run hard to the basket every time and they're really looking to push it first."
USF is looking to bounce back from a 64-38 loss at then-No.3/4 Louisville on Saturday with only Victor Rudd (10 points) finishing in double figures. The Bulls did get a boost from freshman guard JaVontae Hawkins, who posted a career-high nine points in his first start with USF.
One constant for USF has been its defense that has limited league opponents to just 57 points per game. Louisville was the third straight team that was held to at least 10 points below its season average against the Bulls.
USF returns to the Sun Dome 6 p.m. Saturday to host Georgetown before a trip to Seton Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 23 for a game that will be televised on ESPNU at 7 p.m.