After a pair of losses in their first two true road games of the season, the USF men’s basketball team returns “home” for a pair of games this week, beginning with a tilt against Georgia Southern tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Bulls opened the season 3-0 with three games in three venues across the Tampa Bay and Lakeland area before leaving for Connecticut, where they lost 68-66 in overtime to Old Dominion on Saturday and 53-49 to Penn State on Sunday.
Now, as they return home, they’ll have to keep an eye on a pair of key statistics that are trending in opposite directions.
In the exhibition game against the University of Tampa and the season opener against Vermont, the Bulls committed a combined five turnovers. In four games since, the Bulls have struggled to keep possession, committing an average of 16 turnovers per game.
“The turnover bug came back to haunt us this weekend,” coach Stan Heath said. “We can’t go down that road again. It’s just a no-win situation. … For whatever reason, we were lackadaisical with the ball. We just have to focus our attention in that area.”
The Bulls could get a boost in ball handling tonight, as true freshman point guard Anthony Collins is expected to make his season debut after recovering from a hip flexor injury that has kept him on the bench all season.
Collins, a three-star recruit from Westbury Christian School in Houston, is expected to become the Bulls’ starting point guard and help the Bulls win the turnover battle.
“We’ve got to fix the things that were problems for us this weekend, and I do think we have a good chance of having Anthony Collins in the lineup, which will really sure up our ball handling pretty good,” Heath said.
On the other end, the Bulls have continued to steadily improve their free-throw shooting, which was poor in the preseason and season opener.
Aside from another poor showing against Florida Southern on Oct. 16, the Bulls have posted free-throw percentages above 74.2 percent in three of their last four games, including a 15-of-18 (83.3 percent) night against Marist on Nov. 14 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
While Collins could make his season debut, the Bulls could be without senior forward Augustus Gilchrist, who missed the second half of Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. Heath said Monday that Gilchrist could be back tonight, but would definitely be available for Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic at the University of Tampa.
Tipoff for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m.