TAMPA - Anthony Collins saw an opening and went for it.
The freshman guard bolted through the lane and hit a go-ahead layup with 12.7 seconds left that propelled the USF men's basketball team to a 67-65 victory over Rutgers on Sunday before a crowd of 2,486 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"The plan was to come up the lane and look for (Jawanza Poland)," Collins said. "Coach said if you have an opening just go for it."
Collins was fouled on the play and added a free throw that left the Scarlet Knights with time for one more play. Rutgers got the ball into the hands of leading scorer Eli Carter, whose jumper at the buzzer clanked off the rim as USF (8-7) improved to 1-1 in Big East play.
"We knew Carter was going to be a key guy," USF head coach Stan Heath said. "We just switched up on everything. I thought Ron did a great job playing in front of them, staying in front of Carter. We were fortunate enough to get that last rebound."
Grabbing a lead was hard enough in the game's final moments. There were eight lead changes in the final 2 minutes, 34 seconds starting with a free throw by Rutgers' Jerome Seagears.
Hugh Robertson gave USF back the lead by a 59-58 margin with a layup, but Myles Mack put the Scarlet Knights back ahead with a 3-pointer.
Shaun Noriega had the answer, firing back with a 3-pointer with 1:46 remaining until Carter's layup put Rutgers back ahead, 63-62, with 1:22 on the clock.
Poland hit two free throws to give USF a 64-63 lead, Mack answered with a jumper with 27 seconds left to set up Collins' pivotal drive to the lane.
"I had a lot of confidence at the end of the game that the ball was definitely going to be in his hands," Heath said. "He was going to make the play."
Anderson Jr. also stepped up in a big way, finishing with a team-high 15 points and six offensive rebounds.
"We didn't have an answer for Ron Anderson," Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said. "Ron enforced his will upon this game and bullied our guys."
Augustus Gilchrist did as well, pulling down nine rebounds and putting in 10 points. Hugh Robertson was the other Bull in double figures with 12 points.
"We just had to gut that one out," Heath said.
Rutgers (8-6) was coming off an emotional 85-83 double-overtime win over No. 10 Florida, and the win gives USF more confidence a game after hanging tough with No. 9 UConn in a 60-57 loss.
"It's just gaining a lot of experience," Anderson Jr. said. "We're going to need that when we come down to the Big East Tournament. It's good to have games like this."
USF will carry the momentum of the huge New Year's Day victory on the road for a test against Villanova on Thursday night at 8.