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February 11, 2012

Heath gets good results after turning to rarely used Noriega

After getting encouragement from his teammates and coaches prior to entering the game, Shaun Noriega took over.

With the Bulls trailing 46-41 at around the 2:30 mark in the second half, the junior guard was called upon to help give USF a spark of the bench. And Noriega's specialty, the three-point shot, proved to be the difference in the game.

Noriega, who hasn't seen much action in recent weeks, came off a screen and buried a three to cut it to 46-44 at the 2:25 mark. On USF's next possession, guard Hugh Robertson found Noriega for another three-attempt, and the sharp-shooter buried a second in a row to put USF up 47-46. USF gave up the lead briefly, but buried eight free throws in the final minute to hold off Providence 54-48.

"(USF forward) Ron Anderson told me, 'I'm going to help you get in this game but you need to come in and hit some shots,' Noriega said of a bench exchange prior to him entering the game. "I'm like, 'alright, I can do that.' Coach (Stan Heath) came and talked to me. He was like, 'Are you ready?' I'm like, 'Yeah.' He just put me in, I had some open looks, and just knocked them down."

"I was in rhythm. I had room. Those were some great screens from my teammates."

Noriega started the season as one of USF's regularly rotated players, but as the season progressed, his minutes shrank. In four of USF's previous six games prior to Saturday, Noriega didn't see any action at all.

"The last couple of weeks I've been struggling a bit, but I just tried to stay positive and keep working hard," he said. "It paid off tonight."

The Bulls (15-10, 8-4), who moved into a three-way tie for fourth in the Big East standings, held the Friars to just 31 percent shooting and 21 first half points. USF shot 39 percent, as junior Victor Rudd led the way with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

"We definitely need road wins, especially if we're trying to go to the NCAA tournament," Noriega said. "Road wins are huge. A win like this tonight makes a huge difference."

USF hosts Villanova on Wednesday. The Bulls beat the Wildcats 74-57 on Jan. 5.


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