An unlikely source helped the USF men’s basketball team to their third road victory of the season Saturday, as the Bulls pulled away on a late run to beat Providence 55-48, sweeping the season series against the Friars.
Junior shooting guard Shaun Noriega, who has seen a significant drop in minutes since the beginning of the season and is averaging just 4.2 points per game, topped his season average in his one minute of playing time. Noriega came into the game with 2:30 remaining and the Bulls trailing 46-41. Nevertheless, he proceeded to hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Bulls a 47-46 lead.
Noriega began the season as the starting shooting guard, but had only played a total of 14 minutes in the Bulls’ seven previous games.
“I asked Noriega if he could do it, and he said, ‘I’ve got one (3-pointer),'” coach Stan Heath said. “But he gave me two.”
After a score in the paint from Providence’s LaDontae Henton, the Bulls scored the last eight points of the game, all of which came from the free-throw line. USF was aided by a technical foul called on Providence coach Ed Cooley.
The Bulls were led by a double-double from Victor Rudd Jr., who had 11 points and 10 rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting. Rudd was aided by Jawanza Poland, who had nine points and six rebounds of his own.
Vincent Council led the Friars with 16 points and three steals in the loss.
The 48 points allowed by the Bulls are the fewest they have allowed in conference play since March 7, 2009, when they gave up 45 points in a three-point loss to Rutgers.
Defense has been the key to the Bulls’ success in Big East play this season, where the Bulls are fifth in the conference at 8-4. The performance over Providence marked the 22nd time in USF’s last 25 games that the Bulls have allowed fewer than 70 points on defense.
This consistency has the Bulls ranked second overall in the Big East in scoring defense.
After finding success on the road, the Bulls will now return to the friendly confines of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the Bulls are 12-1, for a rematch against Villanova. The Bulls achieved their largest margin of victory in a Big East game with a 74-57 win over the Wildcats on Jan. 5.
Wednesday’s tipoff is set for 7 p.m.