Monday night’s win was the type coach Stan Heath knew his team needed in the early portion of the season, not only getting a quality non-conference resume builder but a huge helping of confidence.
USF moved to 2-0 with a 66-49 victory over ACC foe Virginia (1-1) on Monday at the Sun Dome.
“We’ll find out a lot more about our team, but we’re playing with confidence,” Heath said. “I like where we’re at right now.”
USF didn’t get its first lead until about five minutes left in the first half. But from there, it was cruise control. The Bulls used a 9-0 spurt to start the second half and blow open the game.
“I told everybody we just have to lock up (on defense),” said junior guard Dominique Jones, who had a team-high 22 points, adding seven rebounds and four assists as well. “We started playing good defense, getting steals, and making shots. That’s what great teams do. Great teams finish the game strong. They start the game strong. Those are the things we have to get good at.”
USF’s start wasn’t inspiring, mustering just 15 points in the first 14 minutes, but Jones got the Bulls out of their funk with 11 points in the final eight minutes of the first half.
“He’s as good as advertised,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett of Jones.
But Jones wasn’t the only star of the night for the Bulls.
Coming off a career-high 23 points in USF’s 67-61 win against SMU on Friday, forward Augustus Gilchrist had another strong performance with 18 points, seven boards, three blocks and three assists. Center Jarrid Famous added 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting.
“Jarrid and Gus both managed the game, scoring and rebounding,” Heath said. “We wanted to continue to establish the inside first.”
The Bulls also got a surprise performance from backup guard Justin Leemow, who went 3-for-3 from three-point range en route to nine points.
“He hit some timely shots that didn’t seem to go in for him last year,” Heath said. “He’s playing with a lot more confidence.”
And the Bulls have more confidence as a team. For USF, it’s the third time its beaten an ACC opponent in four years. Though still early, Heath is looking for the win to jump-start the season.
“It’s an ACC school – a school with a lot of credibility,” Heath said. “They returned a lot of players from last season. They have a pretty good name in college basketball. It was a huge win for the program.”