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Youngstown State (6-4) at South Florida (5-3)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 18, 7 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Dome (10,441) -- Tampa, Florida. Television: MASN, BHSN. Home Record: YSU 3-1, USF 4-2. Away Record: YSU 3-1, USF 1-1. Neutral Record: YSU 0-2, USF 0-0. Conference Record: YSU 0-0, USF 0-0. Series Record: USF leads, 1-0.

GAMES NOTES: Winners of three straight, the Youngstown State Penguins will hit the road to take on South Florida at the Sun Dome in the first of back-to-back away games Tuesday night.

Although Youngstown State has earned victories in its last three games, two came against the likes of Geneva (93-50) and Hiram (71-44) which are both Division III programs. Youngstown State did beat Bowling Green during the win streak but had dropped four straight before that victory. The Penguins are 6-4 overall and have actually won three of four contests on the road. Youngstown State matches up with Bethune-Cookman on Friday to wrap up this short two-game road stint.

South Florida had begun to turn around its season with three straight wins before taking a 61-49 loss to No. 23 Oklahoma State in Stillwater last time out. The Bulls have had 13 days off since that loss and are beginning a three- game homestand in this game. The Bulls are 5-3 overall on the year including a 4-2 mark at the Sun Dome. The next contest in the homestand features a matchup against Bowling Green on Friday.

There has only been one previous meeting between these programs. That matchup occurred during the 1984-85 season when South Florida earned a 63-56 victory.

As expected the Penguins had little trouble with Hiram. Youngstown State limited its foe to 26.2 percent shooting and outscored the Terriers 18-6 from the free throw line. Youngstown State didn't shoot the ball particularly well itself (.424 percent) and was especially dismal from beyond the arc where the Penguins hit just 3-of-26 attempts. The Penguins also had a slight deficit in rebounding (42-41). Damian Eargle dropped in 20 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double.

Easy competition like Hiram might make it seem like Youngstown State's offensive numbers are inflated this season. While that is partially true the Penguins currently rank second in the Horizon League in scoring (74.5 ppg) while hitting the third most shots in the conference (43.6 percent). Youngstown State has scored at least 70 points in five games against Division I opponents. It is perhaps the team's defensive efforts (65.3 ppg, 38.4 FG percentage) that require closer examination as the Penguins have surrendered 70 points or more in four games to Division I competition. Youngstown State grabs the most rebounds in the Horizon League (38.8 pg) but still has a margin of just +0.4 on the boards. The backcourt duo of Kendrick Perry (16.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.5 apg) and Blake Allen (12.3 ppg) has largely powered the team's offense. Both could stand to improve their shooting as neither hits more than 40 percent from the field. Eargle (12.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg) scores and rebounds well from the frontcourt, while Kamren Belin (8.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) also crashes the glass.

The Bulls did a good job on defense against Oklahoma State by holding the Cowboys to just 40.0 percent shooting. However that couldn't make up for the poor showing by South Florida on the other end, as the Bulls netted just 34.0 percent of their own field goal attempts including 5-of-20 from beyond the arc. The Bulls were also outrebounded (41-28) and outscored in second-chance points (19-7). Victor Rudd was the lead scorer with 14 points, though he needed 12 shots to do so.

Playing good defense has continued over from last year's NCAA Tournament team for the Bulls. South Florida is limiting foes to 59.0 points per game on 38.9 percent shooting which are each among the top 60 marks in the country. However on the other end the Bulls are one of the worst teams in the Big East. The Bulls are scoring only 64.1 points per game and netting 43.1 percent of their field goal attempts. The squad also ranks 13th in the conference in both assists (13.2 pg) and rebounds (33.6 pg). The Bulls do manage to hold onto the ball effectively as they are among the top 10 in the nation in fewest turnovers (10.4 pg). Point guard Anthony Collins (9.7 ppg, 7.9 apg) is a stellar ball handler and has made sure the team doesn't turn the ball over. He currently ranks fifth in the nation in assists. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (12.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Rudd (8.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) are a solid pair in the frontcourt but there isn't much depth after that.

Despite their offensive shortcomings, Collins and strong defense from the Bulls has kept Stan Heath's club competitive this year. Against a Youngstown State team that has largely beat up on inferior opponents, the Bulls will be able to do more than that and earn a win.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Florida 69, Youngstown State 57

12/18 10:33:20 ET