TAMPA — Last season, USF lost 50-42 loss at Florida Atlantic, but after the Bulls pulled out an easy 68-55 win Saturday night, Owls coach Mike Jarvis said there wasn't much difference between this USF team and last season's.
"They still don't shoot the ball that well, not overall," Jarvis said. "There is a difference, and the difference is they now have a legitimate point guard. I think that's going to be the biggest difference going forward. He can make plays, especially if you don't play him properly."
That point guard is freshman Anthony Collins, who came off the bench in just his second college game and sparked the Bulls with 12 points, seven assists and four steals, including one to start a 20-4 run that had USF up 31-20 late in the first half at the University of Tampa's Martinez Center.
"I'm just playing basketball," said Collins, who missed the first five games with a hip flexor that still limits him in practice. "My teammates believe in me, my coaches believe in me, and I'm just trying to make plays for everybody else. If I make plays for them, then everything will open up for me."
With starting forward Augustus Gilchrist out with a shoulder injury, the Bulls (5-2) got a double double-double inside, with junior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick setting career highs with 17 points and 14 rebounds and senior Ron Anderson getting 14 and 12. The Bulls outrebounded the Owls 42-29, and Fitzpatrick and Anderson had three blocks each.
"I thought Toarlyn really stepped up in a big way, and Ron was huge with a double double," said coach Stan Heath, whose team is now 5-0 in three off-campus home venues.
FAU (3-4) cut a 22-point second-half lead to nine with five minutes left, but Collins hit a jumper just inside the 3-point line, and on the next possession hit a wild running layup as he fell and careened into the base of the backboard, adding a free throw.
"When Anthony comes in the game, he's Mr. Excitement. He makes a lot of things happen out there," Heath said. "He gives a tremendous lift. … The game really took a different turn when he came in there."