South Florida had been looking for a spark from somewhere all season. The Bulls finally got it from sophomore guard Jawanza Poland when they defeated winless DePaul on Jan. 27.
It wasn't necessarily a big scoring day for Poland, who did net 11 points. It was more the combination of offense and defense that gave the Bulls the flair coach Stan Heath was seeking.
"I thought Poland was a lightning rod out there for us with some of the energetic plays he made," Heath said. "As much as the dunks were really, really impressive, I thought the passing-lane deflections and really the defensive intensity is what I really liked the most."
Poland's dunks were impressive, the kind he will show replays of to visitors long after his playing days are over and the alley-oop pass he executed was key in breaking the game open.
Poland's play inspired a number of teammates to rise to the occasion. Forward Augustus Gilchrist had his usual productive day with 10 rebounds and nine points, although his 3-for-11 shooting was below the norm. However, forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick scored 11 off the bench, and guard Hugh Robertson led the way with 16 points, including a big 3-pointer in the waning minutes when DePaul had cut its deficit to six.
"That, I thought, was the dagger," Heath said.
The game led South Florida into a week's rest.
"We needed this win," Heath said. "If you're going to have a week off, you want to feel good about yourself. And having a win does that."
--USF Coach Stan Heath has won his last five meetings against DePaul.
--South Florida has been scorching at the free throw line. The Bulls hit 105 of their last 129 free throws through Jan. 29, which is better than 81 percent.
--The Bulls outrebounded 19 of 22 opponents through Jan. 29, led by Fs Augustus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr., who were averaging 6.7 and 7.1 per game, respectively.
BY THE NUMBERS: 20 -- The number of consecutive free throws hit by G Jawanza Poland before missing against DePaul.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We finally won that (turnover battle). That was a big difference for us." -- USF Coach Stan Heath after his Bulls, who ranked last in the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio, won the turnover battle against DePaul.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--at Providence, Feb. 2
KEY MATCHUPS: Providence has been one of the conference's hot teams after a ragged start. They pulled off a pair of sizeable upsets, beating both Louisville and Villanova. South Florida will have to find a way to lasso G Marshon Brooks, who ranked second in the conference in scoring at 23.4 points a game entering the week, joining leader Kemba Walker of Connecticut as the only Big East players above 20 a game. Controlling the boards could become a key in this one as both teams are capable rebounding teams.
--vs. Syracuse, Feb. 5
KEY MATCHUPS: Syracuse has fallen apart after looking like a contender for the national title, losing four in a row while giving up 74 or more points in each game. The Orange defense had been impeccable until then, holding four consecutive opponents to fewer than 60 points. If Providence can flash people into the center of the Syracuse 2-3 zone the Friars could inflict real damage. F Marshon Brooks, the league's second leading scorer, could really harm Syracuse in this one.
FUTURES MARKET: It's not how you start but how you finish and it appears that Coach Stan Heath is putting the pieces to this team together as it enters into the heart of conference play. Possessing a strong inside game with good rebounding, Heath had to discover some offense and the play he is getting from point guard Anthony Crater now has things running smoothly as he gets everyone involved in the offense. Crater is averaging almost five assists per game and is now involving everyone in the offense.
--Junior F Augustus Gilchrist grabbed double-digit rebounds against DePaul, his second consecutive game with more than 10 rebounds. It also was his fourth game out of the last seven to accomplish the feat.
--G Anthony Crater has the offense running efficiently for South Florida. He had seven assists against DePaul and has had five or more assists seven times this year.