TAMPA -- USF was on the winning side of the SEC/Big East Challenge when the Bulls defeated Georgia 63-54. In the final minutes, USF (5-2) showcased a defense that looked more like last season’s, as the Bulls staved off the Bulldogs.
Sophomore guard Anthony Collins played a huge role in the win over Georgia, posting a double-double (17 points and 10 assists). Collins was one of four USF players in double digits. Friday was Collins’ first game back after missing the Nov. 26 game at Stetson due to a sore calf.
There was no evidence of pain against Georgia (3-4). He played impressively on both sides of the ball. His three-point play attempt with 3:33 left broke a tie, then fueled a 14-3 USF run.
When Collins is on the floor, the team plays more organized basketball. He might as well be a senior.
“We put a lot on him. We put the ball in his hands and we expect him to be the playmaker,” Bulls coach Stan Heath said. “I think he relishes that position and he’s doing a great job with it.”
The win against Georgia wasn’t all Collins’ doing. Other players on USF’s roster stepped up their offensive game as well.
Shaun Noriega finished with 15 points including a buzzer-beating three pointer that put the Bulls up 27-22 at the half. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick continued his early season success by scoring 13 points. Victor Rudd finished with 12 points and eight total rebounds.
Fitzpatrick’s 3-for-4 shooting behind the line also added to the Bulls success.
USF was also very aggressive on the boards. They out-rebounded Georgia 27-25.
When the Bulls out-rebound their opponent, they are undefeated so far this season (5-0).
The team now prepares to face undefeated Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Wednesday. The Cowboys are ranked No. 15 in the country.
With three consecutive wins, Heath thinks the team is finally putting the pieces together.
Heath does think they have room for improvement.
“I think we’re now figuring out who we are and what we can do,” he said. “Once the guys really understand what we can do and how we can be effective to win games - that’s what’s going to make us a good team. We’re getting closer and I still don’t think we’re firing on all cylinders.”