Whatever they start, they finish. That appeared to be the message the Bulls starting players gave to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, as they dominated the time and the points Thursday night at the Sun Dome.
The USF bench only played a combined 28 minutes out of 200 and scored two points that Brandon Brigman posted halfway through the second half. The Bulls original five took care of business, knocking out the Huskers 65-60.
“I wanted the most experienced defensive team on the floor,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “Nebraska is a team that doesn’t turn you over, so I wanted a good passing and catching team on the floor.”
The starting lineup Thursday was atypical due to the toe injury of Gerrick Morris, who did not even dress for the game. Replacing Morris was forward Terrence Leather, who shot 3-of-10 from the field and put down 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. Leather is usually an off the bench player that gets a fair amount of playing time; this change in the line up added to the decrease in bench player effectiveness.
“Like I said before, whether you want me in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, I’m all right as long as I play and help my team — that’s all I want to do,” Leather said.
Helping the starters stay intact was the fact that center Will McDonald finally stayed clear of foul trouble picking up only one personal foul with 12:18 to play in the first half. Staying away from the fouls kept him off the bench and in the game, playing 34 minutes — more than doubling his season high.
“Sometimes I get out there and I’m thinking about more stuff. I just needed to slow down and think the game,” McDonald said. “I knew it would be a big win for us tonight, so I knew I had to be in there and play.”
The starting players did not need any help from the bench to put away Nebraska, as the original five scored a total of 63 points, supplying all but two of USF’s points. Highlight players included McDonald, who went 6-of-15 from the field including his first three pointer of the season, and Marlyn Bryant, who pulled down 10 boards along with dishing out four assists.
“I’m just really proud of our team,” said Greenberg. “I thought they played so hard. They played quick, we showed some toughness, we showed some character.”
The Bulls go up against the Florida Gators this Saturday in Gainesville. The Gators are 4-2 and will more than likely offer the best challenge the Bulls have seen all season.
“They’re awfully good. I mean, they’re as skilled a basketball team as there is in the country,” Greenberg said.