TAMPA — As good as Anthony Collins has been in finding open teammates for USF, could it be that the key to the Bulls' success in the Big East is getting the sophomore point guard to pass less and shoot more?
The Bulls (10-7, 1-4) got a spark in Saturday's win against Georgetown when Collins hit a 3-pointer and another shot with his foot on the line on back-to-back possessions to give the Bulls a 43-41 lead; they didn't trail again. Collins had 14 points, all in the second half, and coach Stan Heath said Collins hitting open shots from the perimeter creates a huge advantage for the Bulls.
"I think Collins has to score the ball for us," Heath said. "I think he's got a true point guard mentality: Get everybody else involved. But I think he understands if things aren't working that way, boy, I better step my game up."
Much is made of Collins' talent in piling up assists, but the statistics put a direct link between his scoring and USF winning. The Bulls are 9-0 all-time when he scores 14 or more; conversely, USF is 0-5 this season when he scores five or fewer. His ability to drive and draw fouls also goes hand in hand with winning — the Bulls are 7-0 in his two seasons when he takes seven or more free throws.
"He pretty much is the USF offense," senior F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. "He makes our team go on offense. We're trying to get him the ball. He's very hard to contain, and he draws so much attention that he's an outlet for other guys to get open shots. … (When he hits outside shots), that's going to be huge. It forces guys to play him honest … if he's making them, you have to put some type of pressure on him. If you get too close to him, he's going to go right around (you)."
CLOSE TIES: Leading up to the Super Bowl, you'll read about USF football coach Willie Taggart's close ties to the Harbaugh family, but Heath also knows the family well. He was an assistant at Michigan State from 1996-99 with current Indiana coach Tom Crean, who is married to Jim and John Harbaugh's sister, Joani, and the brothers followed the Spartans during their run to the 1999 Final Four in St. Petersburg.
"I met them quite a bit," Heath said. "Especially when we went on the NCAA Tournament runs, the Harbaugh brothers would come around quite a bit, and their dad (Jack) as well, with Joani. They came to support us. It was kind of unique, because Jim Harbaugh was the big-time Michigan quarterback of course, and Michigan and Michigan State have a nice little rivalry. So we kind of let him in, but we had one eye open for him. You look at Tom's team, both the Harbaughs in the Super Bowl, and we've got Willie Taggart. That whole tree is having tremendous success."
THIS AND THAT: Andrea and Andrell Smith get much of the attention in USF's women's basketball success, but freshman Alisia Jenkins has become a consistent presence inside. She has taken over the team lead at 5.8 rebounds per game, leading the way for a squad that leads the Big East in total rebounds. … USF softball's season opener is fast approaching on Feb. 8, and Ken Eriksen is eager to see freshman Erica Nunn, who adds to USF's outstanding returning pitching depth and will be an everyday bat as well.