TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — South Florida is turning newfound confidence into victories.
Hugh Robertson and Anthony Collins scored 15 points each, Ron Anderson Jr. added 14, and South Florida beat Providence 81-78 on Sunday.
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick chipped in 13 points and Augustus Gilchrist 11 for South Florida (13-9, 6-3 Big East), which has already surpassed its overall (10) and conference (three) victory totals from last season.
"Anytime you win, that feeds into your confidence even more so," South Florida coach Stan Heath said. "This is the halfway point (of the conference season) and we've put ourselves in a good position. There's still a lot of basketball to play, and this league is a funny league. You can go into stretches either way, up or down. So, you've still got to take it one game at a time."
Providence (12-10, 1-8) got a career-high 33 points from LaDontae Henton. The Friars have lost 20 consecutive Big East road games since beating DePaul 79-62 on Jan. 14, 2010.
"I don't want us to feel bad for ourselves," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "It is what it is. We're trying to fight every game. From a coaching standpoint, it's eating my guts out. Losing is something you should be allergic to, and I told our players, 'Hate losing more than you love winning.' That's where we'll get better. It is very, very frustrating because I see our young men out there trying their best."
Robertson had four points and Jawanza Poland connected on a go-ahead jumper during an 8-0 run to put South Florida up 55-53 midway through the second half.
After Henton converted three free throws to cut the Providence deficit to two, 80-78, South Florida's Victor Rudd Jr. hit 1 of 2 from the line with 5 seconds left. Fitzpatrick got an offensive rebound after Rudd missed his second attempt.
"I just didn't want them to get another possession, throw something up at the rim and it magically goes in," Fitzpatrick said. "I was just trying to make a hustle play for my team and get us all out of here."
Providence could do no better than play to a 39-all tie at halftime despite Henton scoring 24 points. The freshman forward entered with a career-best of 21 points, coming against Boston College on Dec. 8.
"Just phenomenal," Cooley said of Henton. "Absolute matchup nightmare. I'm very proud of LaDontae and his fighting through a lot of different things. He was big-time today. Big, big-time."
Vincent Council had five points early on in the second half as Providence took a 46-41 lead. Henton didn't take his first shot of the second half, an in-close basket that gave the Friars a 51-45 advantage, until the 7-minute mark.
The Bulls grabbed a 69-60 lead on Robertson's 3 with 4 1/2 minutes to go.
"There's no question, good basketball teams find a way to win, even if you don't have, maybe, your best game going forward," Heath said. "That told me a little bit about our guys. We can't play like this all the time, we know that, but hopefully the guys got a little bit of a message, too, that we've got to make sure defensively we bring it. That's who we are."
South Florida entered allowing a Big East-low 58.1 points a game.
Henton had a three-point play, hit a 3 and Bryce Cotton added a long-range jumper to put Providence ahead 36-29 with 4:15 left in the first half. Cotton had 16 points overall.
Anderson scored two of his 12 first-half points on a game-tying layup 12 seconds before halftime.
Council finished with 10 points and 10 assists. The junior guard had 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in the Friars' previous game, an 86-74 loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
"It's hard," Henton said. "We've just got to stick together right now, and it's going to come. We want to win. We're playing hard every night, so it's going to come."