TAMPA - The Bulls' tune-up for the regular season was filled
with solid performances and teaching points Monday night at the brand new Sun
Victor Rudd led four USF players in double figures with 14
points in a 74-65 victory over an Eckerd team that helped the Bulls prepare
well for Saturday night's season opener against UCF.
"That's a really good team to play. They have veterans back
from an NCAA Tournament team last year and every time we made a mistake they
made us pay," USF head coach Stan Heath said.
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and newcomer JaVontae Hawkins each
scored 13 points, while Jawanza Poland's 10-point performance included two
monster dunks that wowed fans in the Bulls' first game in their newly renovated
USF ran its new fast-paced offense well at times despite
both its point guards - Anthony Collins and Martino Brock - not being 100
percent. Collins has been dealing with a calf strain, but added eight points
and four assists. Brock has been battling an illness, but still posted nine
assists and no turnovers in his first action as a Bull.
"If we can get that kind of production from a backup point,
that's encouraging. That's an area where we weren't strong at last year," Heath
USF had a 35-29 lead at the end of a first half that
showcased Hawkins' ability to score when the Bulls needed production. The
freshman from Flint, Mich., turned a two-point game into a 32-22 Bulls lead
with eight straight points, including a smooth 3-pointer off an assist from
"He's got that quick first step and he has a nice shot when
he gets his feet set. He's going to be a nice weapon to bring into the game,"
said Heath of Hawkins, who went 5-for-6 from the field.
The Bulls were able to stay ahead in the second half by
playing trademark USF defense and limiting Eckerd to just 32 percent from the
field. USF's offense kicked it up a notch as well by shooting 56 percent after
the break with its veterans leading the way. Rudd scored nine points in the
period, while Fitzpatrick and Poland combined for 11 points to help the Bulls
gain confidence using a different style going up the court.
"I think we did a solid job sharing the ball. We have a lot
of new faces out there, so we tried to get a feel for each other," Fitzpatrick
Eckerd kept things close by outrebounding USF, 42-34, with
Darrien Mack and Malcolm Brunner Jr. combining for 23 boards and 23 points. The
Tritons also held a 19-5 edge in second-chance points.
"We have to shore that up," Heath said. "It's an easy fix
fundamentally, but it's a hard fix because we have to get tougher. We have to
get better at that."
USF has a few practices to get things corrected before
hosting the Knights 7 p.m. Saturday back at the Sun Dome.