NEW YORK — USF's emergence as a defensive-minded, grind-it-out, low-scoring team has come at the detriment of Augustus Gilchrist's scoring numbers, but coach Stan Heath said the senior forward has played a key role in the push for the NCAA Tournament.
"As much as maybe his numbers offensively don't show, his transformation as just a team guy has been so refreshing," Heath said. "He's really bought into winning and doing whatever he can to help our team. He hustles more, he plays more defense, does all the little things."
USF has won six of its past eight entering tonight's game in the Big East tournament — against the winner of Tuesday's late Rutgers-Villanova game — but it comes as Gilchrist has endured a scoring drought. He has scored fewer than 10 in each of USF's past seven games; before that, in 94 games with the Bulls his longest such stretch had been three games.
Entering the season, Gilchrist looked to be the team's most reliable scorer. He had at least 15 points in each of USF's final six games last year, averaging 19.5 points in that span. But this season, with a slower pace and more balanced scoring, he has managed 15 just four times in his 28 games. Fellow senior Ron Anderson said what matters most is the team's success, something Gilchrist can appreciate from winning nine games as a freshman and 10 last year.
"Gus has been here a really long time, has gone through ups and downs, and he's finally winning," Anderson said. "He's had to sacrifice so much this year. He's had to go through the biggest sacrifice of probably not scoring as much as he has in recent years. There's a reason we have three seniors on the team, to kind of change the program."
Gilchrist, with 1,173 points, needs 23 to move past Terrence Leather and into USF's career top 10 in scoring.
FOUND BATS: After just two home runs in its first eight games, USF baseball had five Saturday against Savannah State, and the three-game sweep helped the Bulls sweep the Big East's weekly honors, with seniors Daniel Rockhold (2 HRs, 7 RBIs) and Derrick Stultz (6 IP, 0 ER, 6 Ks) named the conference's player and pitcher of the week.
Coach Lelo Prado had moved OF Chad Taylor to shortstop this season, but after six errors in the first eight games, Prado moved Taylor to centerfield this weekend, with freshman Kyle Teaf stepping in at short. Teaf had one error on the weekend but also had three hits, raising his average to .222 entering Tuesday's game against Jacksonville.
THIS AND THAT: Pitching has been a huge part in USF softball's 13-4 start, with a ridiculous 1.50 staff ERA. That would have ranked in the top 10 nationally last year, and it's nearly a full run better than last season's 2.46 team mark. … Football coach Skip Holtz, whose team starts spring drills March 21, is expected to be at Madison Square Garden for tonight's basketball game. … Holtz has allowed sophomore S Spencer Boyd back on the team for spring practice. Boyd, suspended for the final three games last season, was off the team for two months before convincing Holtz to give him another chance. He could provide depth and help on special teams.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.