Providence will look to win three Big East games in a row for the first time since the 2008-09 season when they travel to struggling South Florida on Wednesday night.
That year was Keno Davis’ first in Providence and the Friars actually had two separate three game winning streaks in conference play. They opened the Big East portion of the schedule 3-0 behind wins over St. John’s, DePaul and Cincinnati, dropped a pair to top 15 teams in Marquette and Georgetown, and then ripped off three wins in a row capped by a 100-94 win over Syracuse to make them 6-2 in the Big East.
PC has won their last two games behind the strength of a renewed defensive effort. Villanova shot just 27% at home versus the Friars, on their way to 52 points, while Cincinnati scored a season-low 50 on 37% from the field. Cincinnati and Villanova combined to shoot just 4-32 from three point range in those two games.
Bulls struggling to score
South Florida may be the worst offensive team in the conference this season – a big reason why they stand at 1-10 in conference play. They couldn’t crack the 50 point mark in either of their last two games (a 70-47 loss at home against Marquette and a 68-40 road loss to Nova) and have been held under 50 in three of their past six.
They’ve scored 50 or less in six of their 11 conference games, with a season-low coming at Louisville when they managed just 38.
USF’s recent run against PC
Still, the Bulls have had Providence’s number in recent seasons. PC was 5-1 in the series after the 2009 season, but have dropped five of the last six meetings between the two to even it at 6-6 all-time. They’ve lost their last three trips to Tampa.
A year ago USF won 22 games and went on a tournament run behind the play of surprising freshman point guard Anthony Collins and a massive frontcourt headlined by the now-departed Gus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr.
Still, expectations were high coming in (Lindy’s predicted them to finish 8th in the Big East).
They played at a plodding pace a year ago, taking advantage of their size, but don’t have the depth upfront to do so effectively in 2013. The Bulls were dealt a big blow when 6’11, 275 pound Waverly Austin was not admitted to the school, and while Collins remains one of the best distributers in the Big East (6.4 assists per game), their two top scorers have yet to take their games to the next level.
Both Victor Rudd and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick were key contributors last year, and while each have bumped their scoring averages up over 10 per game, they’ve shot poorly with Rudd making just 37% of his shots and 24% from 3 and Fitzpatrick shooting at 38% and 31 from deep.
Rudd, their leading scorer, is battling through a groin injury that forced him to miss the Villanova game this past weekend. He’d injured the groin in practice earlier in the week and had been held out as a precaution. To say they struggled without him is an understatement – it took until the 5:44 mark of the second half for the Bulls to crack the 30 point mark.
Council approaching milestones
The PC athletic department noted two interesting stats regarding Vincent Council that have gone under the radar a bit. He’s just 11 assists shy of breaking Ernie DiGregorio’s school assist record. This is perhaps not all that surprising considering Ernie D could not play as a freshman.
More eye-catching is that Council is just 22 assists away from breaking the all-time Big East mark held by Sherman Douglas. Council is currently third in Big East history, eight behind Chris Thomas who played at Notre Dame from 2001-05.
Providence at South Florida, 9pm tipoff