TAMPA, Fla. -- Victor Rudd scored all of his 24 points in the second half, leading South Florida to a 64-49 victory over St. John's on Wednesday night.
Jawanza Poland added 16 points off the bench for the Bulls (11-8, 4-2 Big East), who used a 13-2 run that began just before halftime to open a 15-point lead and cruise to their fourth win in five games.
USF, which overcame a 10-point deficit in the final six minutes to knock Seton Hall out of the Top 25 last week, surpassed its victory total for all of last season -- both in the Big East and overall.
Defense has been the key to USF's surprising start in conference play. The Bulls don't have a single player ranked among the league's Top 30 scorers but they are allowing a league-low 58 points per game. They've been especially impressive against Big East competition, holding five of six opponents- Connecticut, Villanova, Notre Dame, Seton Hall and now St. John's -- at least 10 points below their season scoring average.
Wednesday's victory stopped a six-game skid in a series St.John's leads 6-2. USF hadn't beaten the Red Storm since entering the Big East in 2005, and the Bulls' only previous win came on March 16, 1995, in the NIT.
St. John's, which starts four freshmen and has lost seven games to ranked opponents while playing much of the season without coach Steve Lavin on the bench, shot 35 percent in the opening half. The Red Storm never recovered from being outscored 9-0 during a six-minute stretch between taking a 15-13 lead and falling behind by seven.
Poland's 3-pointer put USF up 29-22 at halftime -- and the Bulls had yet to get any points from Rudd or leading scorer Augustus Gilchrist.
Gilchrist, the only player on USF's roster averaging double figures at just under 11 points per game, made two free throws for his first points of the night to begin the 10-2 surge that expanded the lead to 41-26 three minutes into the second half. The closest St. John's got after that was 11.
Rudd, a transfer from Arizona State, missed all five of his shots in the first half. He was 8 of 10 after halftime, including a couple of crowd-pleasing dunks while the Bulls were building the lead to 21 with just under five minutes to go.
Poland scored 12 in helping USF's reserves outscore the St. John's bench 20-2 in the opening half. He finished 6 of 11 from the field and made both of his free throws.
Phil Greene joined Harkless and Achiuwa in double figures for St. John's with 10 points.