TAMPA — USF finally got some help for junior guard Dominique Jones. And the Bulls finally got their first Big East victory.
Jones, who publicly challenged his teammates to step up after a crushing defeat to No. 10 West Virginia on Wednesday, had a game-high 20 points, and four others scored in double figures for USF, which scooted past lowly Rutgers 73-64 Saturday night before 4,764 in the Sun Dome.
"I thought the words (Jones) said, he didn't personally attack anyone. It was just a team reference," USF coach Stan Heath said. "We're growing. We're maturing. … Just like with my kids, sometimes you have to get hit upside the head and grow from experience."
Junior center Jarrid Famous, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds, senior guard Mike Mercer (13 points), sophomore Anthony Crater (10 points) and freshman Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (12 points) leveled out USF's scoring attack.
"It's tough losing, but we just keep focused," Crater said. "We put (the West Virginia) game behind us and … took care of business."
Rutgers coach Fred Hill said the idea was to focus on Jones, but USF's balance made it difficult.
"Other guys are going to get theirs, and that's what you have to do when you try and take someone away, letting the other players step up and make some shots," he said. "They missed some shots, but they made enough plays to be able to win the game."
USF (11-6, 1-5), which never trailed, was in control for virtually the entire game, though Rutgers (9-8, 0-5) pulled within six early in the second half.
The Bulls forced 19 turnovers, 12 in the first half, and got easy baskets in transition, including a couple of rim-rattling dunks by Famous, who was up against Rutgers' 7-foot center Hamady Ndiaye, who is third in the nation in blocks.
"I thought (Famous) was a demon on the boards," Heath said. "He battled. He was getting every rebound."
USF has only two players with significant Big East experience, Jones and senior guard Chris Howard. Heath said it's important to have others contribute when the Bulls play road games this week against Cincinnati and Providence.
"Sometimes I have to slap myself a little bit, too. … The rest of those guys have no inkling of what it's like to be out there in Big East play," he said.