7:00 PM ET, January 6, 2011
USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Florida
The last games for Villanova and South Florida showed that even lesser-regarded teams can pose a problem in the Big East.The seventh-ranked Wildcats will be seeking an eighth straight victory in their first conference road game Thursday night when they try to hand the Bulls a fifth straight loss.Although Villanova (12-1, 1-0) appears to be the far superior team to South Florida (6-9, 0-2), the way both teams' previous games unfolded suggest that this could be a fairly tight contest.The Wildcats won 81-65 over Rutgers on Sunday in a game that was close throughout. Villanova trailed by four at halftime and led by only seven with 2:51 left against a Scarlet Knights team which finished no better than 13th in the conference the past four years."Welcome to the Big East," coach Jay Wright said. "It's not pretty. But this is the way it's going to be in this league."The Bulls, meanwhile, led for most of the second half in their 66-61 overtime loss at then-No. 4 Connecticut on Friday. South Florida, tied with DePaul for the worst overall record in the Big East, was ahead 46-37 with 11 minutes remaining in the second half."That was a tough, tough game for us," coach Stan Heath said. "I thought we did all the things we could have done to give ourselves a chance to win, and we just came up a little short."Villanova is 4-0 all-time against South Florida, although both matchups in Tampa have been decided late. The Wildcats won 49-46 in the first meeting Jan. 24, 2006, and pulled away in the final two minutes in a 70-61 victory Jan. 24, 2009.Wright's club had an easier time at home in last season's 74-49 victory Feb. 24.That contest marked Villanova's previous conference game at The Pavilion before Sunday's win. The Wildcats shot 35.7 percent in the first half against the Scarlet Knights."We just weren't playing our kind of basketball in the first half," Wright said. "I don't know what we were doing, to be honest. Basic concepts. And (Rutgers) was bringing it. It wasn't anything tricky or special."Corey Stokes bounced back after missing all three first-half shots to make 5 of 6 after the break. He finished with a game-high 23 points and is averaging 22.0 over the last three games."I never lose confidence in myself or my teammates," Stokes said.This contest pits two of the top defensive clubs in the Big East. Villanova is limiting opponents to a conference-best 37.3 percent from the field while South Florida is not far behind at 38.4.The Bulls limited the Huskies to 37.5 percent shooting Friday, but scored 15 points over the game's final 16 minutes as they struggled against UConn's zone defense."I'm proud of my team," Heath said. "We've been on a little bit of a skid. At the same time we continue to battle, we continue to fight. To come into a place like this on New Year's Eve and battle toe-to-toe with a top-ranked team, I think our guys should feel like, 'Hey, we're not too far out of the woods from being a team that can win games.'"Augustus Gilchrist had 21 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls.This is the first Big East home game for South Florida, which went 6-3 in such contests last season.
|Avg Points Allowed||65.6||66.5|