But it was only worth two points…
Highlight plays are always exciting to witness in sports, especially when it’s a play that results in someone getting dunked on — it can even be that spark in a game that leads a team on to victory. But in Saturday nights game between the USF Bulls and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the spectacular play made by Victor Rudd was just that… two points (three in this case because he was fouled and made the free-throw attempt.) For the 4,605 fans in attendance at the Sun Dome that was one of the few opportunities they had to cheer as USF struggled the entire night defensively and from beyond the three-point line and were defeated by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 79-69.
“We started the game off very sluggish, not the kind of energy and fight that you want to have and they took advantage of it”, said Coach Stan Heath. And while the Bulls did fight back from the early 15-2 deficit, and even took the lead at the beginning of the second half, it just seemed as if they were playing catch-up the entire night.
Redshirt Junior Kadeem Jack of Rutgers took advantage of the Bulls lack of defensive intensity by scoring a career high 31 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and capitalizing on 13-of-13 attempts from the free-throw line. “If he (Kadeem) has a high motor he is very effective for us,” said Rutgers first year Head Coach Eddie Jordan. “If he is in between that or below 80% energy, he is not being as effective as we need him to win.”
On Saturday Jack played well above that 80% as no one on the Bulls roster was able to stop him or his Rutgers teammates from drawing contact and they kept USF top players: Victor Rudd, Chris Perry and John Egbunu in foul trouble throughout the night. In addition to Jack’s 13 attempts, Rutgers shot a combined 21-of-26 from the foul line and while USF shot 85% from the line in their 20 attempts, they weren’t able to get any of the Scarlet Knights players into significant foul trouble.
An issue that has plagued USF the entire season reared its ugly head once again on Saturday — three-point shooting. On the season the team is only making 25.7% of its three-point attempts and in the loss they didn’t make their first attempt until there was 1:25 left in the second half.
“We’re looking down the bench trying to hope to find someone to come in there and can knock a few down for us,” said Coach Heath when asked about the struggles from outside. “Its a weak spot on our team right now and a game when you are down big, you need that, and not having it is a problem.”
Even in defeat the recent bright spot for the Bulls, senior forward Martino Brock, continued his improved play by scoring 17 points on 7-of-11 attempts. Over the previous five games, Brock has been averaging 10.4 points per game — which is up from his seasonal average of 8.8 points per game.
“He’s been playing well and a lot of his points are hustle/energy points and he attacks the rim real well and draws fouls,” said Head Coach Stan Heath. “He is giving us a nice lift off the bench, and I thought that if we had a few more guys playing with the intensity level Martino was, I think we would be having a different conversation.”
In addition to the impressive dunk, Victor Rudd finished the game with 15 points and seven rebounds and moved into 15th place on USF all-time scoring list — joining him and Brock in double figure scoring on the night was John Egbunu with 10 and Chris Perry with 11.
The Bulls now must prepare for a tough road match-up against the UConn Huskies on Wednesday February 11th. This will be the first game this season between two old Big East Conference foes and features American Athletic Conference leading scorer and assist man Shabazz Napier, who is currently averaging 20.9 points per game while dishing out 5.3 assist per game.