For the men’s basketball team, beating Villanova in Philadelphia on Thursday was a program milestone. Intwo prior attempts, the Bulls lost by an average of 19 points.
The Bulls will have the chance to notch anotherprogram milestone tonight when they line up againstNotre Dame in South Bend, Ind., at the JoyceCenter, adjacent to wherethe Bulls football teamtoppled the Fighting Irish ina marquee win in September.
USF hasn’t fared wellagainst Notre Dame, winning just once in eight attempts,and hasn’t yet won on theroad. In four previousattempts, the Bulls havelost by an averageof 11 points.
For the Bulls (9-7, 2-1) to win, they may need a strong performance from sophomore guard Blake Nash. A natural combo guard – capable of running the point, but also a strong shooter – Nash may have to play the majority ofthe game in control of theoffense.
Late in the first half of the Bulls’ win over Villanova, freshman starting point guard Anthony Collins sustained a concussion and is listed as day-to-day as symptomslinger. If Collins isunavailable to play, Nashwill step into the startinglineup for his fourth startof the season.
Nash, in his first year atUSF since transferring from Williston State CommunityCollege in North Dakota,averages six points in19.4 minutes per game, but he would need to play more minutes if Collins sits onthe bench. Filling in during the second half against Villanova, Nash had abreakout game, scoring12 points and dishing outsix assists in 28 minutes.
Behind Nash, depth is aconcern for the Bulls. Thedeparture of Lavonte Dority, who left the team inDecember after seeing his minutes decrease, meansthat walk-on Mike McCloskeyis the only other availablepoint guard.
McCloskey, a junior from Lake Brantley High School in Orlando, joined the team in December and has played atotal of three minutes in his time with the Bulls.
“Mike has joined ourteam and shown in practicethat he may be a guy that gets some spurtminutes at times if wehave to go deep at ourpoint guard position,” coach Stan Heath said. “He canshoot the ball, has quickness and is just learning in hisfirst year, but he’s a tough kid and has no fear. I really like the intensity he bringsto practice every day.”
A win over NotreDame (10-6, 2-1) would give the Bulls a third consecutiveconference win, but theteam struggled to a1-4 record on the roadthis season. In the losses,the Bulls have struggledto shoot the ball, averagingjust 44.75 points.
Notre Dame is comingoff a double overtime67-65 upset ofNo. 10 Louisville on Saturdaynight. USF beat Rutgers,which was also coming offa double overtime upset of then-No. 10 Florida, 67-65 on New Year’s Day.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Bright House Sports Network and ESPN3.com.