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South Florida tops Depaul, keeps NCAA hopes alive

Thirty-five people at home and inside Madison Square Garden watched Dominique Jones score 20 points and snatch nine rebounds to lead ninth-seeded South Florida to a wire-to-wire 58-49 victory over No. 16 Depaul in the opening game of the Big East Tournament. 

Mike Mercer added 14 points for the Bulls (20-11) who kept their hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament alive. In order for that to happen, USF will almost certainly have to defeat Georgetown when the two face-off tomorrow at noon. South Florida stunned the then-No. 7 Hoyas 72-64 in D.C. on Feb. 3. 

South Florida's Dominique Jones scores 20 in Bulls' victory over DePaul.Will Walker scored 20 points for the Blue Demons (8-23) which finished the season - one which saw them fire head coach Jerry Wainright in January - with their 13th straight loss. 

A few thoughts:

--Unless the Bulls can pull off a pair of upsets over the next two days, these noon games are about as close to playing in the national spotlight as Dominique Jones is ever going to get, and that's a shame. The kid is the real deal and his spot on the Big East's first team was much-deserved. I'd love to see USF get into the dance if only so Jones can get some of the recognition he deserves.

--Jerry "The Human Cartoon" Wainwright does not lose first round games in the expanded Big East Tournament. Depaul wins this one by three if JTHCW is kneeling on the sidelines. 

--The two teams were a combined 6-of-33 from behind the three-point line, with South Florida going 0-for-8 from deep. 

This was your vision, Tranghese. 

--When Stan Heath took this job, Dick Vitale called it, "the worst in all of college basketball." The man's done one hell of a job in a short amount of time. 

--Sticking with oft-troubled guard Mike Mercer may have been Heath's best move to date.

--Will Walker's solid (at least personally) career came to a close with a 20-point performance. 

--South Florida now has 20 wins for just the third time in program history and for the first time since 1990. I'd love to see them knock off Georgetown and sneak into the dance. They're the only Big East team that has any potential to claim a Cinderella story.