Rudd building on confidence for surging Bulls
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There have been flashes of real promise from Victor Rudd, like a 30-point game against Marist in his second game at USF, or when he scored 24 point in the second half of a January win against St. John's.
But for sustained success, for being a consistent, reliable scoring threat, the 6-foot-7 sophomore forward didn't have that until the last two weeks, when he's come up huge for the Bulls, scoring at least 13 points in two Big East tournament games and the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament victories.
"I think his last two weeks have been really, really good," coach Stan Heath said after Rudd scored 17 in Friday's win against fifth-seeded Temple. "He's really stepped up in a big way."
Twelfth-seeded USF (22-13) finds itself one win away from the Sweet 16, facing 13th-seeded Ohio on Sunday night in a battle of overachieving programs fresh off huge upsets. Alongside freshman point guard Anthony Collins, Rudd has emerged in the postseason as the Bulls' best scoring option, capable of long-range shots and SportsCenter-quality dunks as well.
"Victor is playing with a lot of confidence right now," senior center Ron Anderson said. "I think him, along with everybody else on our team ... as we move on in the tournament and we we show ourselves that we can play the type of game we've been trying to play all year, good things are going to happen."
Rudd opened Friday's game with a 3-pointer, helping the Bulls to a 5-2 lead before the team missed 22 shots in a row. When the Bulls found their offense, hitting 9 of 11 shots to open the second half, he had another 3 to give the Bulls a 14-point lead. Most importantly, when Temple answered with 11 straight points to cut USF's lead to only three points, he came through with a huge 3-pointer, sparking a 17-4 run to end the game.
"We just had a will to win," said Rudd, who went 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and 5-for-6 on free throws in the win, raising his average to 9.1 points per game. "Me and Coach have been talking all year about me finding a line between shooting a lot and shooting a little bit. I think I've found that, found that in between, where I don't take a lot of shots and I don't not shoot. I think it's going good for me right now."
Continuing that, harnessing Rudd's potential and turning him into an every-game scoring threat is something exciting for Heath, something that has helped USF in its historic last two games and could continue to do so beyond this season.
"My dad used to come down, and he used to call him a gunslinger," Heath said Friday night. "When he gets it going a little bit, he can roll. He can really make some shots go in. ... It's one of those things with him, where you want to let him go, and sometimes you've got to pull the reins back. But when he gets going, you've got to ride him out a little bit."