TAMPA – Corey Allen Jr. and the Bulls improved to 4-0 by holding off sharp-shooting Stetson, 72-63, before a crowd of 3,782 at the Sun Dome on Friday night.
Allen Jr. scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half while star point guard Anthony Collins finished with 15 points after going 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Martino Brock added 10 points as USF got a big challenge before Monday’s showdown with No. 7/9 Oklahoma State at the Sun Dome.
“We were very fortunate to win this game. Stetson really played well and I thought they outplayed us in a lot of areas,” head coach Stan Heath said.
Stetson (0-5) shot 53 percent from the floor, outrebounded the Bulls, 31-27, and took a 61-60 lead with 4:30 remaining. Willie Green scored a game-high 20 points, Aaron Graham posted 15 points and Kentwan Smith added 12 points.
“Our mind has to get back to our defense,” Heath said. “They shot too good of a percentage and part of that was they had some unique matchups that created some problems for us.”
The Bulls forced 18 turnovers and a couple of those came at a crucial time, courtesy of Allen. A pair of free throws by Zach LeDay put USF ahead, 62-61, with 4:13 to play and the Bulls had a three-point cushion when Allen busted the game wide open with a steal and dunk past the 4-minute mark.
A Green layup cut the Hatters’ deficit to 66-63 with 3:11 to play before Allen came through in the clutch again with less than 2 minutes to go. The junior guard came up with another steal and dunk with 1:45 to play and added a layup to put USF ahead, 70-63, with 56 seconds remaining.
“Doing the stretch in the game coach Heath pulled me aside and told me to step up. That’s what I did,” said Allen, who continues to lead the Bulls in scoring in his first season with the program.
The game featured 15 lead changes and nine ties after both teams were tied at 35 heading into halftime. Stetson connected on 53.6 percent of its shots in the opening period and finished with a 36-22 edge in the paint.
The Bulls now turn their attention to Monday’s matchup with Oklahoma State that’s set for a 7 p.m. start back at the Sun Dome. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN News.
“We all look at it as a challenge and we accept the challenge,” Brock said.