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USF outlasts Providence for sixth Big East win

Published: Monday, January 30, 2012

Updated: Monday, January 30, 2012 13:01


Victor Rudd Jr.'s free-throw clanked off the rim, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick grabbed the rebound and was surprised that he wasn't immediately fouled before the final buzzer sounded.

The USF men's basketball team and Providence had just finished a tight game, with USF winning 81-78 Sunday afternoon at the Tampa Bay Times Forum after trading free throws for the better part of the final minute.

The Bulls led 75-69 with 50 seconds remaining when Providence began fouling, trying to find a way back into

the game. Anthony Collins and Rudd went a combined 7-of-10 from the free-throw line inside the final minute to clinch the win, though Providence nearly played itself back into the game at the other end.

Bryce Cotton hit a 3-pointer and was fouled shooting another on the Friars' next possession, making all three free-throw attempts. LaDontae Henton was also fouled shooting a 3-pointer with eight seconds left, making all three free throws to cut the Bulls' lead to two, their smallest since the 9:26 mark.

After Rudd went 1-of-2 on his final trip to the free-throw line, Fitzpatrick grabbed the rebound that sealed the win, moving the Bulls to 13-9 and 6-3 in the Big East.

"I don't think we played great today," coach Stan Heath said. "Normally, our defense is our staple, but our offense kicked in. We were able to score a lot of baskets today and our passing and sharing the ball was really good."

USF's 81 points marks its highest offensive total in Big East play this season, where the Bulls have the lowest

scoring offense in the conference, and tied for second-highest overall. Five Bulls reached double-figure points, led by Collins and Hugh Robertson, who scored 15 each. Ron Anderson Jr. added 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, Fitzpatrick another 13, including 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point arc, and Augustus Gilchrist scored 11.

The Bulls trailed by six points with 12:17 remaining, but unleashed a 16-1 run over a period of 5:05 to take control of the game. Fitzpatrick hit a pair of 3-pointers on the run to give the Bulls control.

"I can tell that a lot of teams have been trying to play me closer on the 3-point line, but with a point guard

like (Collins) that can draw a defense and get me an open shot, it's hard for teams to be able to contain for a whole game," he said.

Collins got in on the 3-point act in the second half, too. After making only one 3-point shot all season, Collins hit back-to-back 3-pointers in a sequence where he scored eight straight points for the Bulls. His 15 points were a

career high. Led by Collins, the Bulls only committed five turnovers in the game — just one in the second half — a drastic improvement from the 22 they committed in a road loss to Marquette on Wednesday.

"We didn't give ourselves a chance in the last game with so many turnovers," Heath said. "We were much smarter with the basketball today and it shows offensively. We had more opportunities to shoot and score and we got in a better rhythm offensively. Turnovers is a big part of winning. If you don't turn it over, you've got a better chance to win."

Henton scored a game-high 33 points, but was limited to nine in the second half after a strong first half performance.

The win moves the Bulls into a tie for third in the Big East with Georgetown and Notre Dame. The Bulls travel

to Washington, D.C., to play the Hoyas on Wednesday.

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