Losers of nine of their last ten, the USF Bulls head to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Saturday to face the Villanova Wildcats for another Big East matchup. Tipoff is slated for 3:00 pm at The Pavilion.
The Bulls (10-12, 1-9) are coming off of a disappointing 23-point thrashing at the hands of No. 24 Marquette Golden Eagles last Wednesday at the Sun Dome. Today, the Bulls look to avoid their 10th Big East loss of the year. Last season, USF lost just six conference games the entire season while on their way to a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Turnovers were a big issue for the Bulls in their loss to the Golden Eagles. USF was careless with the basketball, turning the ball over a season-high 19 times.
Villanova (14-9, 5-5) finds itself 10th in the Big East standings after a convincing 94-71 over DePaul on Tuesday. The victory snapped a brief, two-game skid for the Wildcats.
The game on Saturday will be the second matchup between Villanova and USF this season. The Wildcats took game one, 61-53 back on January 9th at the Sun Dome. The win snapped a four-game Villanova losing streak to USF.
The Wildcats head into Saturday's game in the middle of the Big East in scoring, averaging 69.6 points per game, while shooting at a 41 percent clip. Villanova has three players averaging double digits, led by JayVaughn Pinkston's 12.7 points per game.
In the first meeting, the Bulls were dominated in the post by Mouphtaou Yarou and Daniel Ochefu. Yarou had a double-double, scoring 16 points and bringing down 13 rebounds. Ochefu scored 12 points, and grabbed 8 boards.
As of late, USF has been better on the glass, outrebounding their opponents in the previous two games. Prior to that, the Bulls had failed to outrebound any Big East opponent. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick has been a big part of USF fighting back in the rebounding battle, grabbing seven rebounds, including four offensive boards against the Golden Eagles.
Underclassmen continue to play a large role for the Bulls. Freshman Zach LeDay led the team in scoring for the second time in the past four games with 14 points.
If USF is going to get its first Big East road victory today, the focus must be on ball security The difference in the loss to Marquette on Wednesday was turnovers; the Golden Eagles turned the Bulls' 19 giveaways into 28 points. USF also must shoot the ball well from the field. Due to the fact that the Bulls are void of a true post player, USF needs to knock down shots from the perimeter. The Bulls shot just 34.7 percent in their last game, including 20 percent from three-point range.
Looking ahead, it doesn't get any easier for USF. After playing Villanova, the Bulls return home to play Providence and No. 12 Louisville. The upcoming schedule gives this matchup with the Wildcats a 'must win' feel.
Josh Appel is the Senior Writer for RunningtheBulls.com. He is a student broadcaster at the University of South Florida. You can contact him at Josh@RunningtheBulls.com. Follow Josh on Twitter at @joshappel.