Point guard depth thin as Bulls meet Notre Dame
Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 12:01
For the men's basketball team, beating Villanova in Philadelphia on Thursday was a program milestone. In two prior attempts, the Bulls lost by an average of 19 points.
The Bulls will have the chance to notch another program milestone tonight when they line up against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., at the Joyce Center, adjacent to where the Bulls football team toppled the Fighting Irish in a marquee win in September.
USF hasn't fared well against Notre Dame, winning just once in eight attempts, and hasn't yet won on the road. In four previous attempts, the Bulls have lost by an average of 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 of the game in control of the offense.
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 symptoms linger. If Collins is unavailable to play, Nash will step into the starting lineup for his fourth start of the season.
Nash, in his first year at USF since transferring from Williston State Community College in North Dakota, averages six points in 19.4 minutes per game, but he would need to play more minutes if Collins sits on the bench. Filling in during the second half against Villanova, Nash had a breakout game, scoring 12 points and dishing out six assists in 28 minutes.
Behind Nash, depth is a concern for the Bulls. The departure of Lavonte Dority, who left the team in December after seeing his minutes decrease, means that walk-on Mike McCloskey is the only other available point guard.
McCloskey, a junior from Lake Brantley High School in Orlando, joined the team in December and has played a total of three minutes in his time with the Bulls.
"Mike has joined our team and shown in practice that he may be a guy that gets some spurt minutes at times if we have to go deep at our point guard position," coach Stan Heath said. "He can shoot the ball, has quickness and is just learning in his first year, but he's a tough kid and has no fear. I really like the intensity he brings to practice every day."
A win over Notre Dame (10-6, 2-1) would give the Bulls a third consecutive conference win, but the team struggled to a 1-4 record on the road this season. In the losses, the Bulls have struggled to shoot the ball, averaging just 44.75 points.
Notre Dame is coming off a double overtime 67-65 upset of No. 10 Louisville on Saturday night. USF beat Rutgers, which was also coming off a 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.