USF coach Stan Heath hasn’t faced Kent State since he left in 2002.
He said Tuesday that he didn’t plan on playing the Golden Flashes, either.
After a series with Florida Gulf Coast fell through, however, USF made a last- minute decision of scheduling Kent State, which Heath led to a record-setting 30-6 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance during the 2001-02 season.
“It’s a great memory,” Heath said. “It’s something I’m proud of. I still keep in contact (with some of those kids).”
Tonight, Heath will be on the opposite sideline of his former school as the Bulls (4-1) try to build on their hot start, hosting the Golden Flashes (4-1) at 7, the first of a five-game home stand at the Sun Dome.
The Golden Flashes’ only loss this season came in overtime to Green Bay. Kent State has emerged as one of the premier teams in the MAC conference in recent years.
“If you look at some of the records over the last 10 years of college basketball, you’ll see Kent State’s name up there,” Heath said. “They’ve had a lot of success and know how to win.”
The Bulls, meanwhile, won two of three games at the Charleston Classic tournament over the weekend, beating UNC-Wilmington and Davidson, while suffering a loss to South Carolina 69-66, a game which the Bulls led at halftime.
USF’s 4-1 start to the season marks its best since the 2002-03 season, when the Bulls won five of their first six games.
A big part of USF’s success has been its improved post play, with sophomore Augustus Gilchrist and junior Jarrid Famous averaging almost a combined 30 points per game. Gilchrist is averaging 19 points and almost eight rebounds.
“More in shape,” junior guard Dominique Jones said of Gilchrist. “Last year, he was sick or whatever the problem was, he couldn’t get up and down the floor. The sky is the limit.”
The USF big men could be effective tonight, as Kent State’s tallest starter is 6-foot-8.
“They’re kind of ‘tweener’ players, not necessarily a three or a four,” Heath said. “They’re 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 guys that are matchup problems. It’d be a hard-fought game. Fortunately, we’re at home.”
Fortunately for Heath, if the Bulls lose Wednesday night, he can say he lost to a program he helped build.
“There’s a part of me inside that didn’t necessarily want to play Kent but has a true affection for Kent State,” Heath said. “I thought if I can give back a little, too, because they gave me so much, it’d be a nice thing.”