Though the campus was empty after classes ended for the fall semester, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were busy with opponents over break.
With junior point guard Anthony Collins not playing most games during the past three weeks, the men’s basketball team looked to fill the void at the guard position.
Collins only saw action in the first two games of this break against Florida Gulf Coast and Florida A&M, and has since been sidelined with tendonitis in his knee.
To make up for Collins’ average of 6.9 points and 5.9 assists per game, USF coach Stan Heath introduced both Martino Brock and Shemiye McLendon to the starting rotation along with junior guard Corey Allen Jr.
The guards also had help from the forwards added for this season to fill the need for size. Forward Chris Perry and 6-foot-10 center John Egbunu, both freshman, had big numbers throughout their first college winter break. While Perry averaged 9.7 points and 5.57 rebounds through seven games, Egbunu recorded two double doubles in addition to his averages of 11.57 points and 7.71 rebounds.
With depth at the guard position, and tall forwards utilizing their size by the basket, the team’s field goal percentage played a role in their winning percentage.
The Bulls (9-6, 0-2) had a better chance of winning games when keeping their field goal percentage more than 50 percent. It’s the emphasis on the “small stuff,” such as shooting, where Brock sees room for improvement from the past three weeks.
“What we can take away from (the past three weeks) is sticking together,” Brock said. “We got a lot of young guys and we have seen a lot of adversity over the break. We need to learn how to do the small stuff because the small stuff is important too.”
Those small things include limiting turnovers and increasing both three-point shooting and free throw percentage.
“The turnovers have to come down quite a bit,” Heath said. “If I had my Christmas gift, it would be some outside shooting. I want to get the outside shooting and free throw shooting where it’s a better number.”
With the exception of two games, the Bulls saw wins over break when they kept turnovers to less than 16 per game.
Over the break, USF finished with a record of 3-4, starting with a two-game win streak after beating Florida Gulf Coast 68-66 and ending with a loss Saturday to Houston, 67-58.
The unexpected early return of senior guard Inga Orekhova brought the women’s basketball starters together again for their three weeks of basketball during break.
After originally being told she would miss 4-6 weeks to recover from surgery for a torn meniscus, she returned 12 days after her operation to post 13 points and six rebounds in the loss to Oklahoma State.
In addition to Orekhova’s contribution, players from every position have been putting in numbers for the Bulls (7-7, 2-1), especially when it comes to field goals. The team has won their games over break when their field goal percentage is more than 44 percent.
“I think our team has very good range,” freshman center Katelyn Weber said. “We can shoot well from 15 feet and inside the paint as well. So we can shoot it
USF’s two wins over the break, both against conference teams, included big games from senior center Akila McDonald and sophomore forward Alisia Jenkins.
After Jenkins earned a
double double against Houston with 15 points and 13 rebounds, McDonald had a double-double performance of her own against Southern Methodist University. The Bulls beat Houston 77-54 followed by 76-62 win over SMU.
Freshman guard Ariadna Pujol experienced breakout performances during her first year in the United States.
Originally from Spain, she made the most of her American Athletic Conference Weekly Honor Roll award for a big game against Rutgers and helping the team’s winning effort against Houston with 14 points and six rebounds.
In order to keep their conference-winning streak against Temple on Tuesday, the Bulls will have to plan, defensively, for a rebounding Owls team that accumulates a high three-point shot percentage. Defense is something that Weber sees room for improvement on
coming off the break.
“I think we can improve on our defense,” Weber said. “Just not letting teams go on runs as often as we do.”
After the women’s team faces Temple in the Sun Dome on Tuesday, the men’s team will take on Temple in Philadelphia on Thursday.