The USF men’s basketball team has only played one exhibition game together thus far.
The only returning players to see time on court last season are sophomore forward Chris Perry, senior guard Corey Allen Jr. and junior guard Anthony Collins.
Coaching a young team that has seven new players can present challenges, but coach Orlando Antigua said the team showed promise in its win against IUP.
“I thought we competed well, moved the ball well,” Antigua said. “I think one of the things that was key for us is we got a lead in the second half and then IUP made a nice little run. I wanted to see how we responded and how we dealt with adversity.”
The Bulls’ first run in with adversity will be Friday, when USF hosts Flagler for the first regular season game.
Antigua said even though he is worried about how the team will deal with rough stretches, they’re ready to compete.
“(Adversity) is always a concern, but the only way you get experience is by going through it,” Antigua said. “You try to prepare them as much as possible and then you brace yourself and you start going through the games and dealing with the adversity and you teach them how to walk through some of that stuff. A lot of it is sticking to your principles, communicating, helping one another and sacrificing.”
While this game will be the first of many tests for the Bulls and Antigua, Collins is excited just to have another chance to play again.
“It’s like a fresh start,” Collins said. “I like that the new guys just want to listen and go play hard, so that’s exciting.”
The Saints finished 11-15 last season and haven’t had a winning season since 2007-08.
This season, Flagler begins its schedule with exhibition games against UCF and the Bulls. The Saints were defeated 96-70 on Nov. 4. by the Knights.
The game doesn’t count for the regular season totals for Flagler, but it will count for the Bulls because USF is in Division I while Flagler is only Division II.
Despite the Saints’ previous losing records, Antigua said the Bulls will have to watch out for their guards.
“Flagler runs really well; they’re aggressive,” Antigua said. “They’ve got two really good guards who play free-spirited. They put up a lot of shots. We’re going to have to do a really good job in transition defense, getting back, locating shooters and making them move the ball around to play against our set defense.”
Perry, who sat out USF’s exhibition game with a sore right knee, has been active in practice all week and is expected to play with no limitations Friday.
“Chris has been doing great, he’s been practicing the last couple days and he’ll practice (Wednesday), so I anticipate him being ready to go for Friday,” Antigua said.
Perry’s return will allow Antigua to have more size on the court compared to the small lineups he ran against IUP.
Antigua said the small lineups he employed had success, but it’s not plan A for the first-year coach.
“I think it gave us a little something different, being able to switch everything,” Antigua said. “It makes it a lot more difficult for teams to score when you’re doing that. When you have everyone that’s about the same size and are playing the same way, with the same kind of intensity and energy, that’s something we may look at for the future. But would I prefer that? Probably not. We’d like to have the full roster available if we could.”
The Bulls are facing one of the weakest opponents on their schedule Friday when they host Flagler in the Sun Dome at 7 p.m., but Collins isn’t taking the Saints lightly.
“I think every game is important for us since we’re so young,” Collins said. “We have (seven) new guys and this is our first time playing together, so every game counts for us.”