Anthony Collins is the best thing to happen to South Florida since orange juice.
The freshman guard has powered the Bulls to heights they have never before seen in basketball.
Running the show at the point, Collins has become a scorer to go with the engine that drives the offense.
He capped it off when USF went into as hostile an environment as there is to play in, Pitt's Petersen Field House, and led the Bulls to a 56-48 victory, scoring a career-high 22 points while dishing off six assists.
It marked the fourth time in the last six games Collins, not known for his scoring, has been in double figures.
It has been as if Collins is willing the Bulls to victory, of which they now have 10 in the Big East for the first time.
Against Villanova in the previous game won by South Florida, 65-51, it was more of the same.
Collins poked the ball away from Villanova's Ty Johnson with 14:07 remaining and USF up 27-25. After a scramble for the ball popped it into the USF frontcourt, Collins dove and scooped it up to a streaking Hugh Robertson, who completed a dunk despite incurring a flagrant foul from James Bell that sent him heels-over-head for a hard landing.
Robertson drained both free throws, and Ron Anderson Jr. made a layup to complete a six-point possession and break open a tight game.
"I just tried to hustle and grab the ball," Collins said. "I saw that Hugh was there, and I (passed it) up to him."
Moments later, Collins drew a foul from Markus Kennedy that upset Wildcats coach Jay Wright so badly he was hit with a technical. Collins hit four free throws to put the Bulls in front by 10.
A lead like that with one of the nation's top defenses, and it's over.
Bulls own top defense in Big East
--By holding Pitt to 48 points on Feb. 19, USF maintained its grip on the lowest average points allowed in the Big East. Over their last four games, the Bulls have given up 51, 48, 51 and 48 and have allowed fewer than 60 points 17 times this year.
--To understand the feat of having 10 conference victories this year, consider that in USF's first six seasons in the Big East, it won so much as two consecutive Big East games in only two stretches, both in the 2009-10 season. After going a dismal 11-57 in their first four years in the Big East, the Bulls are now a competitive 20-28 in the last three seasons.
BY THE NUMBERS : 13-1 -- The Bulls' record on their home court. While this is good, one has to remember that the school's basketball facility is undergoing renovation, and they have not really playing at their home court.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "People say it's a fluke, our success. We just wanted them to come out and see it's really real." -- F Hugh Robertson on the season South Florida is putting together.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Syracuse, Feb. 22 -- There's been a lot of good happening for South Florida this season, but Syracuse will certainly put the Bulls to the ultimate test in the Carrier Dome. The Orange is at full strength with Fab Melo back and has won all 17 of its home games. Hall of Fame Coach Jim Boeheim has a legitimate contender for the national title. Its only loss is at Notre Dame. South Florida's defense has been awesome, so it will be interesting to see if the Syracuse athleticism can be controlled.
--vs. Cincinnati, Feb. 26 -- Cincinnati has recovered from a lot this season, including the suspension from the brawl with Xavier and a three-game losing streak that threatened to bring the season down. Rather than quitting, the Bearcats bounced back and won four of five, although it came against the bottom half of the conference. This game figures to be a physical, tough defensive struggle with the Bearcats fourth in the Big East in defense to USF's leading 58.6 points per game given up. The Bearcats offer a lot of problems with their balance, making it difficult to take away any one player without being hurt elsewhere.
FUTURES MARKET: Victor Rudd Jr. is a star of the future who is having a pretty decent present. A sophomore transfer from Arizona, he has already scored 30 points in one game and 24 in one half. He averages 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds and is a spectacular dunker.
"He's an impressive dunker,'' Bulls coach Stan Heath told the St. Petersburg Times. "It lights up my eyes, too. He does impressive things out there where you say, 'Wow!' He doesn't do the basic dunks, the basic plays. At certain times, I kind of don't like it. But I also know these are energy plays that our team and fans really get into.
"I want all our players to make aggressive plays. If they make an aggressive play and it doesn't go our way, I can live with it. When it's a non-aggressive play, that bothers me. I'd rather him make a play instead of shying away from contact and taking a floating fadeaway shot."
--PG Anthony Collins has had six or more assists in each of the last six games for South Florida.
--Senior F Ron Anderson Jr. is pushing for postseason recognition. He is one of the top rebounders in the conference and one of the most rugged, but he also is second in the conference in shooting percentage at 59 percent.
Click here for more info and get the inside scoop!