As USF was getting all it could handle from St. Francis, it was the bench that provided the lift needed for the team’s first victory of the season.
Sophomore Shaun Noriega and redshirt junior Ron Anderson Jr. each had career-highs off the bench to help the Bulls to a 74-71 win against St. Francis (NY) at the Sun Dome on Monday night.
The Bulls pulled out the win after suffering a tough 60-53 loss in their season opener to Southern Miss on Friday.
“Every game, someone else has to step up,” said Anderson Jr., who finished with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes. “Not everybody is going to have their best game. I guess tonight, I was able to contribute as best as I could.”
With the game tied 58-58, Anderson scored seven straight points to give the Bulls breathing room at 65-58.
Noriega, who missed all five of his shot attempts in the opener, hit 4-of-6 from long range and finished with a career-high 15 points.
“I was in a rhythm tonight,” Noriega said. “I had to redeem myself from last game, so I was getting my shots up and just correcting what I was doing wrong the first game.”
After trailing by seven in the first half, USF (1-1) took their first lead (21-20) at 6:40 in the first half after consecutive 3s by Noriega and junior Augustus Gilchrist.
The Bulls, who held a 38-31 halftime lead, stretched it to 44-34 in the second half before St. Francis went on a 14-0 run to take a 48-44 lead at the 12:19 mark.
The Terriers challenged the Bulls throughout, hitting 13-of 22 from 3-point range. Guard Ricky Cadell scored a team-high 28 points.
“That’s very, very impressive,” coach Stan Heath said. “They hit some hard shots. That’s what the 3-point line does to you. It’s a great equalizer, and it could change the game in a hurry.”
The lead was cut to 73-70 with 45 seconds remaining, but Noriega sealed the win with a free throw with six seconds left.
“We made some mistakes, but I don’t think we pushed the panic button,” Heath said. “Our guys hung in there, and Ron Anderson gave us a nice lift at the end. Jawanza Poland was pretty good throughout the middle part, and Shaun Noriega gave us a nice boost.”
The Bulls shot 26-of-49 from the floor, including 9-of-23 from the perimeter. Five different USF players made shots from behind the arc.