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USF gets spark before big road trip

For most of USF’s players, playing in the Big East is a new concept. Even men’s basketball coach Stan Heath can sometimes forget how young of a squad he has, he said after the Bulls’ first Big East victory Saturday.

“You know, sometimes I have to slap myself a little bit,” Heath said after USF beat Rutgers 73-64. “Right now, I’m really only playing two guys with Big East experience: (guards Chris Howard and Dominique Jones).  The rest of those guys have no inkling of what it’s like to be out there in the Big East.”

Entering Saturday’s game, USF (11-6, 1-4) had lost its first four conference games, three of which were blowouts. However, USF stopped its skid with a balanced scoring effort that saw five players in double figures.

“We’re growing. We’re maturing,” Heath said. “We’re figuring things out. I called 100 timeouts to get them to do the right things (Wednesday against West Virginia).  We got some things off our chest.”

Following a 69-50 loss to West Virginia on Wednesday night, Jones publicly challenged his teammates, a game where Jones scored 28 of USF’s 50 points.

Heath backed his star player’s comments Saturday, saying it was good leadership for such a young team.

“He desperately wants to win,” Heath said of Jones, who led the team against Rutgers with 20 points. “He knows a winning formula is not going to be him doing it by himself.  He didn’t personally attack anyone.  It was just a team reference.”

Freshman Toarlyn

Fitzpatrick had 12 points, junior Jarrid Famous had 13 points and 12 rebounds, senior Mike Mercer had 13 points and sophomore Anthony Crater had 10 – the kind of balanced scoring Jones said he was looking for. “It definitely gives the new guys like our freshmen confidence,” said senior guard Chris Howard. “A lot of guys played well in that game, and it was a balanced scoring effort that will give the guys confidence going into a tough league like this.”

With a road trip starting Wednesday that includes trips to Cincinnati and Providence, the Bulls needed a spark, Heath said.

“To not go in there (Cincinnati) with any momentum would’ve been even harder,” he said. “We have to go in there with some confidence and figure out a way to steal a game.”