USF can rebound from its worst loss of the season with a win tonight over Marquette, but first the Bulls will have to slow down the conference’s highest scoring offense.
Led by junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom, who averages 16.4 points per game, the Golden Eagles (14-9, 5-5) have scored 79.3 points per game, nearly two points more than Louisville in second place. Four Marquette players average double-figures.
USF, on the other hand, has the weakest scoring offense in the 16-team Big East. Only two Bulls – Augustus Gilchrist (12.4 points per game) and Jawanza Poland (10.6 points per game) – average double figures.
On Saturday, against Syracuse, the Bulls were outrebounded for the fourth time this season, giving up 11 offensive rebounds in the first half. Securing defensive rebounds will be a priority against Marquette, which ranks ninth in the country in field goal percentage.
USF is also struggling to draw a strong home attendance. More than 10,000 people packed into the St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim estimated that 7,000 of them were wearing orange garb.
The Bulls (8-16, 2-9) have fed off of crowd energy all year at home, with all but one of their wins coming in front of the Sun Dome faithful. Marquette has lost its last four road games – most recently to Villanova, 75-70, one week ago.
With familiar problems plaguing the team, specific player improvements are essential to USF’s success. Point guard Anthony Crater committed all four of his turnovers against the Orange in the second half. Jawanza Poland could not stay on the floor long enough to make an impact, fouling out after playing only 24 minutes. The team’s leading scorer, Augustus Gilchrist, shot under 30 percent for the third straight game.
As a team, USF is still searching for its identity on offense. Against the Orange, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Jarrid Famous combined for 24 points. The rest of the players mustered only 25 points among them.
USF has only one win against Marquette in Big East play and hopes to pick up its second tonight at 7 on ESPN2.