By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The wait is over for USF men's basketball fans.
The Bulls will tune up for the regular season in their fancy, new Sun Dome 7 p.m. Monday against D-II Eckerd College from the Sunshine State Conference.
"We've beaten up on each other for a month and a half, and now it's time to go up against somebody else," USF head coach Stan Heath said.
The game marks the first time USF has faced an opponent since coming within one win of reaching the Sweet 16. Last season's version of the Bulls was dominant on defense and Heath is looking forward to seeing his team work toward putting it all together again.
"Obviously as a coach I want our identity built around defense and to carry over from last year when we were so good. It's going to take some time before we get there," Heath said.
USF has the luxury of facing an opponent that will give its defense quality work before Saturday's season opener at home against UCF. The Tritons shot better than 61 percent and put up 115 points in a rout of the Chilean national team on Halloween night.
"They play very hard. They execute extremely well," Heath said. "I think it's always good to play against a team that's well-coached and has good discipline."
USF has a history of facing quality teams from the SSC in past exhibitions. The Bulls' defense gained confidence in a 73-43 win over Florida Southern College in 2011 and had similar success against Eckerd in a 75-58 win in 2010.
"We're very grateful for this chance again," Eckerd head coach Tom Ryan said. "It was memorable for our student-athletes two years ago and our kids are looking forward to it this season. It's an honor to go out and try and measure where we are against a USF team that has experienced so much success."
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