The score was 3-3 in the opening five minutes.
Dartmouth’s three points all came from the free-throw line.
USF had one 3-pointer from Laquincy Rideau. The Bulls also had more fouls (4) than they did points.
In fact, Michael Durr was subbed off the court after fouling within the opening 45 seconds.
It was definitely a rocky start, and one could figure it would set the tempo for the rest of the night.
But USF (5-4) didn’t let the first half drag down its performance, as it powered a 63-44 win over Dartmouth (5-4) at the Yuengling Center on Friday.
The Bulls set a different tone in the second half, shooting 15-of-23 from the field and outscoring the Big Green 37-21.
The Bulls’ second-half surge was led by Antun Maricevic, who scored 10 points in 12 minutes off the bench.
Maricevic’s performance was heralded by coach Brian Gregory for his aggressiveness in driving to the basket.
“There was no tip-toeing through the tulips,” Gregory said. “You put your shoulder down and attack the basket. … He did a great job of that and that gave us a big lift.”
Two other Bulls scored in double figures —David Collins with 13 and Zack Dawson with 11.
Dawson ended the first half with two points. But he powered nine points in the second half and shot 3-of-5 from the field, with all three of his baskets being coming from 3-point range.
Settling in is what helped him to a standout performance, according to Dawson.
“Everybody’s talked to me telling me, ‘Just be aggressive, shoot the ball. Don’t hesitate, play the score,’” Dawson said. “Just feeling comfortable with the guys helps my game more.
“I feel like game by game I’ll be fine.”
In the opening half, USF shot 8-of-24 from the field and just 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. Dartmouth’s defensive effort was what held the Bulls back, according to Gregory.
“They gave us all we could hande in the first half, they were really good defensively,” Gregory said. “That first half where our offense was struggling … a lot of credit goes to Dartmouth.”
While the offense stuttered, USF’s defense remained steady and set the course for the rest of the game. The Bulls forced 21 turnovers and limited the Big Green to 29 percent from 3-point range. No Dartmouth player was able to score in double figures.
“Our defense just stayed the course and we were really disciplined defensively,” Gregory said.
Both teams drew 19 fouls, but Dartmouth was more efficient from the free-throw line. The Big Green went 8-of-10 while the Bulls went 9-of-19.
Needless to say, free-throw shooting is still a concern for USF, as the Bulls are averaging 57 percent this season.
“Oh yeah,” Gregory said. “We need to spend some extra time. … We need to tighten that up, because if we’re going to get fouled, we’ve got to take advantage of it.”
The solution is more time in the gym, according to Gregory.
“I have all the faith in the world that if we put in the time, we will shoot better from the line,” Gregory said.