A second half comeback Sunday afternoon against Providence gave the Bull’s their first conference win and displayed an intensity the team has lacked in prior games. South Florida (7-12, 1-5) hopes to bring that same assertiveness into the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J., tonight at 7, when the Bulls take on the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers (10-7, 1-4).
The Bulls took great strides towards proving themselves worthy of tough Big East opponents, but coach Stan Heath said there is still much work to be done.
“The thing that we’ll concentrate on most in the next couple of days is improving our defense,” Heath said. “We have to do a better job – we can’t just play half a game. The league is too good and the players are too good.”
Exciting athletic plays brought Bulls’ fans out of their Sun Dome seats and gave the players the fervor needed to mount their come-from-behind victory. Without the home crowd tonight, South Florida will have to look internally for in-game enthusiasm.
“I think we know that to have any chance we’ve got to bring our own intensity, we’ve got to bring our own defense and we’ve got to really pack the intangible things necessary to win on the road,” Heath said.
Aside from learning the amount of energy needed to win games, South Florida will also use the Providence game as a much-needed boost of confidence. They showed that they could not only pick up the pace when trailing, but also exhibit the discipline needed to keep the game under control once they gained the lead. The Bulls went eight for eight from the free throw line in the final minute.
The Bulls have faced pressure defenses the last few games and have had the most success when they attacked that pressure. Heath thinks a quicker tempo on offense could make the difference going forward.
“It’s really important that we play to our strengths, utilizing our big people and try to get a little more of a faster pace in transition – not just try to grind it out with them,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with Rutgers – as a team they are battling at every possession.”
USF has won four out of five previous outings against the Scarlet Knights, who come into tonight’s game one spot ahead of the Bulls in the Big East standings. The two teams are in similar situations and are desperate for another conference win. Rutgers’ only conference win also came against the Friars of Providence.
To pull off a win, the Bulls will have to contain Rutgers’ senior forward Jonathan Mitchell, who leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game.