USF outlasts Providence for sixth Big East win

Victor Rudd Jr.’s free-throw clanked off the rim, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick grabbed therebound and was surprisedthat he wasn’t immediatelyfouled before the final buzzer sounded.

The USF men’s basketball team and Providence hadjust finished a tight game, with USF winning 81-78 Sundayafternoon at the Tampa BayTimes Forum after trading free throws for the betterpart of the final minute.

The Bulls led 75-69 with50 seconds remaining when Providence began fouling,trying to find a way back into

the game. Anthony Collinsand Rudd went a combined7-of-10 from the free-throw line inside the final minute to clinch the win, thoughProvidence nearly playeditself back into the game atthe other end.

Bryce Cotton hit a 3-pointerand was fouled shootinganother on the Friars’ nextpossession, making allthree free-throw attempts.LaDontae Henton was also fouled shooting a 3-pointer with eight seconds left, makingall three free throws to cut the Bulls’ lead to two, their smallest since the 9:26 mark.

After Rudd went 1-of-2 onhis final trip to the free-throwline, Fitzpatrick grabbed the rebound that sealed the win, moving the Bulls to 13-9 and 6-3 in theBig East.

“I don’t think we played great today,” coach StanHeath said. “Normally, our defense is our staple, but our offense kicked in. We were able to score a lot of baskets today and ourpassing and sharing the ballwas really good.”

USF’s 81 points marks its highest offensive total in BigEast play this season, where the Bulls have the lowest

scoring offense in theconference, and tied forsecond-highest overall. Five Bullsreached double-figure points, led by Collins and HughRobertson, who scored15 each. Ron Anderson Jr. added 14 points on7-of-9 shooting, Fitzpatrickanother 13, including3-of-4 from behind the3-point arc, and AugustusGilchrist scored 11.

The Bulls trailed bysix points with 12:17remaining, but unleashed a 16-1 run over a period of5:05 to take control of the game. Fitzpatrick hit a pair of 3-pointers on the run togive the Bulls control.

“I can tell that a lot ofteams have been trying toplay 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 committedfive turnovers in the game – just one in the second half – a drastic improvement from the 22 they committed in a road loss to Marquette onWednesday.

“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 abetter rhythm offensively. Turnovers is a big part ofwinning. If you don’t turn it over, you’ve got a betterchance 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.