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Bulls give Fernandez career win No. 200

Senior guard Inga Orekhova scored a career-high 25 points to lead USF to a 74-60 win against Detroit-Mercy in the Sun Dome on Monday afternoon, giving Bulls coach Jose Fernandez his 200th career win.

The Bulls (11-2) won for the second time in three days, having beaten Florida A&M on Saturday afternoon. Fernandez, already the Bulls' all-time winningest basketball coach, men's or women's, is the first USF coach to reach the milestone.

USF led just 54-50 midway through the second half, but a pair of technical fouls against the Titans sparked an 11-0 run for the Bulls and resulted in th ejection of Detroit-Mercy coach Autumn Rademacher. Orekhova went 4-for-4 on the technical free throws and led USF in scoring, with guard Andrell Smith adding 19. Freshman forward Alisia Jenkins had her first double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

USF opens Big East play next Tuesday, Jan. 8, in the Sun Dome against Notre Dame.

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Boise State staying in MWC, won't join Big East

The future of the Big East -- and USF's uncertain future by extension -- took another severe hit on Monday as Boise State -- a centerpiece of the league's future lineup -- announced it has decided to stay in the Mountain West rather than join the Big East as scheduled next summer.

It's only the latest blow in the league's continued downward spiral -- Boise's exit could clear the way for San Diego State to also stay in the Mountain West, with the Aztecs contractually not required to pay any exit fee if Boise leaves and the league has no other West-coast football presence. It's the second time a top-tier football program has announced it's joining the league, only to back out before playing a single game, as TCU did the same in choosing the Big 12 instead of the Big East this year.

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Good news: Collins out of hospital, tests negative

USF sophomore point guard Anthony Collins, who left Saturday's win against George Mason on a stretcher with a frightening neck injury, was released from Florida Hospital Tampa late Saturday night and all tests were negative, avoiding any significant injury.

USF said Sunday that Collins underwent MRIs, X-rays and CAT scans while in the hospital, and while he's now resting, there's no sign of how quickly he'll be able to return to the basketball court. USF finishes its nonconference schedule Wednesday in a rematch against Central Florida, which beat the Bulls in Tampa in the season opener. USF opens its Big East schedule in one week, facing No. 9 Syracuse in the Sun Dome on Jan. 6.

Collins, who took a knee to the head while scrambling for a loose ball in the second half of Saturday's win, is among the national leaders in assists and was a huge part of USF's NCAA Tournament run last season. If he can't play, the Bulls would turn to junior Martino Brock, the team's starting shooting guard, who stepped in for Collins when he was sidelined by a calf injury last month in a win at Stetson.

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Collins injured, Bulls hold on for 61-57 victory

TAMPA -- With point guard Anthony Collins gone for the final 10 minutes, taken off the court strapped to a stretcher and hospitalized with a neck injury, USF held off a late rally by George Mason, going 10-for-10 on free throws in the final two minutes to pull out a 61-57 win against George Mason in the Sun Dome on Saturday night.

USF (8-3) had gone 6-for-17 on free throws until the final two minutes, but guard Jawanza Poland hit six in a row himself on the way to a team-high 16 points after the Patriots (7-5) had cut a 13-point lead down to two with 33 seconds left. The Bulls also finished the game without forward Victor Rudd, a national player of the week last week, who suffered a concussion late in the game, coach Stan Heath said.

Heath reiterated after the game that Collins -- a central figure in last year's NCAA Tournament run -- had sensation in his arms and legs. The sophomore had left the game earlier after being poked in the eye, but then with 10:30 left in the game, he took a knee to the head in a collision with a George Mason player. Collins was strapped to a board by EMS workers and taken off the court on a stretcher after laying still on his back for about 10 minutes. …

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USF's Collins carted off after collision during game

USF sophomore point guard Anthony Collins left Saturday's game with George Mason, stabilized on a board by EMS officials and carted off after suffering a neck injury in the second half of the game.

Collins, among the nation's leaders in assists and a central figure in USF's NCAA Tournament run last season, went down after dribbling through defenders. USF said he took a knee to the head and was suffering from neck pain. Trainers kept his head and neck still, with his arms crossed on his chest, though there was movement in his arms and legs as he left the court with EMS personnel. The injury came with USF up 39-32 with 10:30 left in the game.

We'll update more as soon as we have details about his injury.

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Live blog: USF men's hoops vs. George Mason

Greetings from the Sun Dome, where USF is back from the holiday break and playing host to George Mason tonight in the Bulls' penultimate nonconference game of the season. Tipoff is at 7 and we'll have updates throughout the game, so stop in and join us ...

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Immokalee coach: WR Richardson not USF-bound

Immokalee receivers Tshumbi Johnson and Xavier Richardson were USF's first commitments for the 2013 class back in February, but neither are in USF's future plans, Indians coach Jerrod Ackley confirmed Friday.

Ackley said that USF's previous coaching staff, under Skip Holtz, had dropped both players during the season due to academic concerns, and Willie Taggart's staff has not inquired about either. Johnson is now "firmly" committed to playing at Cincinnati with improved test scores, he said, while the 6-foot-4 Richardson is now focusing on playing college basketball.

"They told me pretty early they were dropping Tshumbi and Xavier, I would say end of September," said Ackley, who has a policy of not discussing recruiting with reporters during his team's run to the state championship game and returned a call from the Times on Friday.

Johnson, a high school quarterback recruited by USF to play receiver, has made his interest in the Bearcats clear in his postings. Richardson has remained listed as a USF commitment on all major recruiting sites. …

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USF beats Bowling Green, 87-84 in triple overtime thriller

Times Staff Writer
TAMPA – Before Friday, USF men's basketball coach Stan Heath had never  been involved in a triple overtime game.
Then again, Heath had never been part of a night like this.
The Bulls overcame a seven-point deficit with a minute left in regulation - and a 22-minute power outage in overtime - to pull out a 87-84, triple overtime thriller over Bowling Green at the Sun Dome. It was the second longest game in the program's history.
"It was incredible, man," said Victor Rudd. "You love being a part of a night like that."
Rudd was the star of the show, USF's Mr. Clutch, hitting the game-tying 3-pointer to force the first overtime, another tying three to force a third, and a three-point play with 13 seconds left that gave USF the lead for good.
"Terrific," Heath said of Rudd, who had a game-high 29 points. "He was very, very special tonight."
But Rudd may not have had the final chance to be a hero had it not been for a game-saving block by guard Martino Brock. With 18 seconds left in triple OT and Bowling Green up two, guard Jordon Crawford threw a long pass over the USF press to Anthony Henderson, who was streaking in alone for a wide-open layup.
However, Brock - easily 20 yards behind near midcourt - somehow sprinted back and swatted Henderson's attempt. 
"That was the moment," Heath said. "Defensive play of the year."
Brock had been brilliant in the first half, when he scored 13 of his season-high 18 points. Heath thought the Bulls had it put away when they were up 11 points with 12 minutes left.
But Rudd said the Bulls (7-3) let their guard down, and it nearly cost them. Crawford, the Falcons top scorer who was held without a point the first half, led their big comeback, racked up 15 in the final 15 minutes of regulation (and 27 overall). "He's a dynamic player" Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said.
But Rudd scored six in a last-minute flurry, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to send it to overtime. The Bulls controlled the first overtime session, leading by four with 21.6 seconds left. However, after the 21-minute power outage, Juwanza Poland and Anthony Collins each missed the front end 1-and-1 free throw attempts.
"That was the ultimate freeze," Heath quipped.
And, each time, Crawford raced down the court to score a layup, sending it to a double OT.
It was Rudd, again, who came up clutch in the second overtime, hitting a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left to tie it and force a third session. It was the first-ever triple overtime game for USF, its longest since a four-overtime game against New Orleans Feb. 8, 1979.
"After the lights went out, it was crazy after that," Rudd said. "It was a crazy night, but we got the win."
Joe Smith can be reached at …

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Lights out: Rudd keys Bulls' wild win in triple OT

I'm over in St. Pete covering the bowl game, but USF men's hoops had an amazing game in the Sun Dome on Friday night, rallying twice and pulling out a wild 87-84 win against Bowling Green in triple overtime.

The Bulls (7-3) trailed by seven points with 45 seconds left in regulation, but forced the first overtime on a late three-pointer by Victor Rudd. After a 20-minute delay due to the lights going out with 21 seconds left in the second overtime, Bowling Green rallied from a four-point deficit to force a third overtime.

USF trailed by four points with 30 seconds left in the third overtime, but rallied to win, with Rudd hitting a three-point play for the lead with 13 seconds, then two more free throws to seal the win. He finished with 29 points -- in 53 minutes -- while Anthony Collins added eight assists.

We'll have a full story shortly from Times writer Joe Smith ...

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Wells, Sheridan join Taggart's staff from WKU

New USF football coach Willie Taggart announced Thursday night that he has brought two more of his Western Kentucky assistants to join his Bulls staff, with Walt Wells coming as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, and Nick Sheridan hired as quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator.

With those two in place, Taggart now has four of his nine full-time assistants hired, joining WKU defensive assistant Ray Woodie (likely coaching linebackers, unless USF's new coordinator lands there) and USF offensive assistant Larry Scott, who was kept from Skip Holtz's staff.

Wells (here's his WKU bio) spent the last 10 years at WKU, so Taggart had four years as a fellow assistant coach with him from 2003-06, then the last three years on Taggart's staff as offensive line coach. …

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12:30: Chat live with Tom Jones

Want to talk about college football or basketball? The disappointing turn the Bucs' season has taken? The Rays' offseason moves? The NHL lockout? Sports on TV/radio? Whatever's on your mind, join Times sports personality Tom Jones for a live chat today, starting at 12:30 p.m. Can't make it? Leave a question in advance in the "Comments'' area below, then check back afterward to replay the chat. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Butler's Saffold, Swain officially sign with USF

The first official signees of the Willie Taggart era at USF football arrived on Wednesday, as cornerback Torrel Saffold and linebacker Rahmon Swain, teammates at Butler Community College in Kansas, signed with the Bulls as midyear additions who will enroll next month.

"I'm excited to be a part of the USF Bull Nation," Saffold said by phone, minutes after submitting his paperwork.

Saffold and Swain had the chance to talk with Taggart on his first day on USF's campus during their official visit, and the chance to sit down with him validated their excitement about playing for USF, a relationship started by Skip Holtz and his staff.

"He knows what he wants to do with this program and he's very competitive," said Saffold, who came to Butler from Kansas City. "Our goal is to win, no matter who we line up against. We're going to work hard and have fun doing it."

Saffold in particular joins the Bulls at a position of need, with starters Kayvon Webster and George Baker graduating and only reserves like Josh Brown and Kenneth Durden remaining to compete with newcomers for starting jobs next fall. …

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Penguins go cold as Bulls pull away to 72-54 win

TAMPA -- Stan Heath hopes his USF basketball team can become the defensive stalwarts of last year's NCAA Tournament run, and the final 15 minutes of Tuesday's game against Youngstown State were a promising nod to those Bulls.

Trailing 45-39 with 15 minutes to play, USF's defense clamped down on the Penguins, who shot 15 percent the rest of the way, going the final 9:46 without making a shot from the field as the Bulls pulled out a 72-54 win before an announced crowd of 3,680 in the Sun Dome.

"I thought our defense kept turning it up and turning it up, and we finally were able to get the stops we needed," said Heath, whose team didn't allow Youngstown to hit a field goal in the final 9:46 of the game. "It was a good second half for us, and hopefully our guys are understanding that we can't take anybody lightly."

USF (6-3) got a dominant game from forward Victor Rudd, who had a season-high 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, leading the Bulls to a 45-35 edge on the boards. Point guard Anthony Collins had 14 points and seven assists, hitting back-to-back runners to spark a 10-2 run that gave USF the lead for good. …

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Live blog: USF men's hoops vs. Youngstown

Greetings from the Sun Dome -- for the first time in 13 days, USF men's basketball is back on the court, playing host to Youngstown State. We'll have updates and notes throughout the game -- Willie Taggart at halftime!!! -- so stop on in ...

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USF's Taggart live on ESPN: 'I cannot wait'

New USF football coach Willie Taggart, having finished a busy opening week of recruiting, is now making the rounds with radio and TV interviews, including a two-minute phoner on ESPN's "College Football Live" on Tuesday afternoon. Here's what he had to say:

ESPN: What was it about the USF job that made you want to take the job so badly?

Taggart: "Well, I looked at the program, where it was a few years ago, where it went all the way up in the rankings to No. 2. I knew the potential was here, that it could be done, because it was that way before. You look at the fan support, they're just hungry for success, and the recruiting base here, there's no reason for you to go far to get recruits. You can get them here. You look at the facilities, you had everything here. Everything you need. You just have to get to work and get everyone on board."

ESPN: Coach, Florida's your home state. You mentioned the recruiting base. You were a standout at Manatee High School right there in Bradenton. Does the fact that you know the area so well, has that helped you and will that help you recruit immediately? …

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