The South Florida men’s basketball team opened their Big East tournament play with a 56-47 win over Villanova on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, boosting their NCAA tournament resume.
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins for USF, who had 17 turnovers in the game, one more than the amount of field goal attempts they made (16).
USF advances to play third-seeded Notre Dame on Thursday night. The Bulls have won their opening games in the Big East tournament for three straight years and will have their first appearance in the quarterfinals against the Fighting Irish tomorrow night.
Freshman Anthony Collins led the Bulls with a team-high 17 points and four assists as the Bulls beat the Wildcats for a third time this season.
The Bulls, who won in another staunch defensive effort, kept Villanova’s shooting to a dismal 20 percent from the field in the first half. Wednesday night’s win over the Wildcats marks the ninth game that the Bulls have held an opponent to less than 60 points. Villanova also shot 0-for-7 from the arc in the first half, contributing to their own offensive woes.
The sixth seeded Bulls went on a 14-2 run to open the game, with Victor Rudd Jr. scoring 10 of his 13 points in the first half. USF led by as much as 13 points with 8:07 seconds left to go in the opening half and also held a substantial lead for the majority of the game, until Villanova slowly started mounting a comeback.
The Wildcats pulled within six points with 8:36 remaining in the second half. Contributing to the second half surge was Mouphtaou Yarou, who finished the game with 20 points. With only 56.7 seconds left, the Wildcats cut USF’s lead to five, however, the Bulls never let the Wildcats closer than five points.
The Bulls sealed the win by going 10-for-12 at the line in the final 1:06.
In defeating Villanova for the third consecutive time this season, USF now improves to 13-6 in the Big East conference.
Prior to the win over the Wildcats, the Bulls were included on the list of bubble teams that were trying to get an NCAA berth. USF’s victory over Villanova will not do much to increase their chances to get an NCAA tournament bid because of the Wildcats’ record, but it certainly did not hurt them. USF, now at 20 wins on the season, deserves an NCAA berth especially after last week’s win over then No. 18 ranked Louisville. That win bolstered USF’s resume enough for a legitimate chance at an NCAA tournament bid.