South Florida (9-6) at Rutgers (11-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 17, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The RAC (8,000) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: USF 7-4. Rutgers 7-2. Away Record: USF 2-2, Rutgers 3-2. Neutral Record: USF 0-0, Rutgers 1-0. Conference Record: USF 0-3, Rutgers 2-2. Series Record: Rutgers leads, 6-5.
GAMES NOTES: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights play host to the South Florida Bulls in a Big East Conference clash at the RAC on Thursday night.
In its third contest in league play last Saturday, the Bulls were dominated in a 64-38 loss to now No. 1 Louisville. The Bulls have lost all three of their matchups against league foes and have fallen to 9-6 overall since conference play began. The loss to the Cardinals came on the road where the Bulls have split their four contests. South Florida will return home to take on Georgetown next.
Rutgers had collected back-to-back wins before a 68-58 setback at home to Cincinnati this past Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are now 11-4 overall including a strong 7-2 mark at the RAC. Rutgers has split its first four games in conference action with the wins against Pittsburgh (67-62) and St. John's (58-56). The Scarlet Knights will travel to South Bend to challenge the No. 20 Fighting Irish this weekend.
This has been a rather, albeit short lived, all-time series. Rutgers has the 6-5 edge in total wins although South Florida earned the victory in last season's only meeting.
The pesky defense of the Cardinals was too much for South Florida on Saturday. The Bulls turned the ball over 17 times and shot just 26.7 percent from the field while recording just 12 total field goals. The Bulls were also dominated on the inside with the Cardinals having wide margins in rebounds (49-24), points in the paint (36-14) and second chance points (20-2).
The offensive end of the floor has been a puzzle that the Bulls have been unable to crack this season. South Florida is the lowest scoring team in the conference (62.2 ppg) while shooting the second-worst percentage from the field (.408). In a conference filled with strong backcourts, South Florida has failed to get a ton of production in terms of distribution with only 12.2 assists per game as a team, the worst mark in the league. South Florida has managed to keep itself competitive by allowing just 60.2 points per game on 38.9 percent shooting on the defensive end. The poor ball movement of the Bulls has come despite the services of Anthony Collins (9.5 ppg, 7.0 apg) who is second in the league in assists. Victor Rudd (11.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (11.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) are the top scorers on the roster though neither has been particularly efficient at finishing.
The Scarlet Knights recorded just four field goals in the first half when they shot 21.1 percent from the field en route to a 27-15 halftime deficit against Cincinnati. Rutgers improved to 47.1 percent shooting in the second half but an 18-6 disadvantage from the free-throw line kept the Knights at bay.
In comparison to South Florida, Rutgers has been an offensive force. The Rutgers are putting in 70.2 points per game while shooting a solid 46.4 percent from the field. The Scarlet Knights' scoring average is only 10th in the conference as is the team's rebounding efforts (36.1 pg). On defense Rutgers holds teams to 40.2 percent shooting and 66.7 points per game. Eli Carter (16.1 ppg) is the lead scorer on the squad. Carter has been stellar in getting to the free-throw line where he is second to teammate Myles Mack in free-throw percentage (.897). Mack (13.0 ppg) shoots well from just about anywhere as he leads all guards in the Big East in field goal percentage (.542). Scorers beyond the two guards has been a bit harder to find with Dane Miller (8.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Wally Judge (7.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) representing the next best options.
Rutgers may not be an offensive powerhouse in relation to the conference but with the duo of Carter and Mack should have more than enough firepower to get past the Bulls.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 71, South Florida 64
01/17 10:38:46 ET