In the 2020 college basketball season, the effects of home-court advantage aren’t what they used to be. For the Bulls, just being home after a two-game road stretch in which they went 0-2 against Rhode Island and Virginia Tech, might’ve been just what they needed.
That and USF’s (2-2) versatile big men who made their presence felt in a 76-57 win of Florida Gulf Coast (1-1) at the Yuengling Center on Wednesday.
Seven-foot 250-pound center Michael Durr led the Bulls with 14 points and nine rebounds, and six-foot-eight-inch 234-pound forward Alexis Yetna followed with 13 points and also had nine rebounds.
“Those guys deliver. They got some early fouls, the shots we didn’t make we were on the glass,” coach Brian Gregory said. “When you have one with 13 and nine and the other one with 14 and nine from your four and five … that’s pretty good production out of that.”
USF burst out of the gate, taking a 23-7 lead in the first six minutes. The Bulls carried that lead through the first 20 minutes with Durr leading the way with 10 points and six rebounds. He was 4-of-6 from the field, including a 3-pointer. The Bulls finished the half 18-of-34 from the field with 20 of the 41 points coming in the paint.
It was Durr’s fourth straight game in double-digit points, and he’s averaging 11.25 a game. Last season, he averaged almost half with 6.7.
His jump in production is down to hard work off the court, Gregory said.
“He’s as hard a worker as we got. He’s in the gym every morning 9 a.m., he’s getting extra shots,” Gregory said. “With Mike, he’s moving better, he’s more aggressive, he’s got a better feel in the post, he’s gotten stronger and he makes good decisions.”
With big players, going for a basket in the post is the goal. But Durr and Yetna also went after the offensive rebounds against the Eagles. The two of them had seven of the team’s 15. Those rebounds counted too, as the Bulls had 13 second-chance points.
USF outrebounded the Eagles 45-37, with 24 coming in the second half.
Despite the rebounding advantage for USF in the second half, the Eagle started with a 7-0 run to bring the Bulls’ lead down to single digits from a 14-point advantage established before the half.
“We didn’t contain the ball as much,” Gregory said. “Our thing after the first six minutes we needed to guard the ball better. And that meant not just the guy on the ball but that next line of defense.”
The Bulls regained a firmer grip on the game after going on three 6-0 runs, starting midway through the half until just over three minutes left. That established a 22-point lead, the largest of the day.
Not everything ended well in the second half for USF, however. The Bulls went 4-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final 20 minutes, finishing 5-of-13.
Turnovers were an improvement, with USF forcing 15 and giving up 11. The Bulls are averaging 12.5 turnovers per game this season, a vast improvement over 17.8 after the first four last season.
With the effects of COVID-19, Gregory has seen other teams deal with increased early-season rust, and that has helped his team prepare on the fly. Even with a short prep time, the team managed to deliver.
“Some of the stuff that we were exposed with over the weekend — the turnovers, just some sloppiness in some of our execution on offense and defense would have been addressed three weeks ago,” Gregory said. “Sometimes you got to work on stuff on the fly, and that’s kind of what we did. We got back and had one day of prep to get ready for this game … you have to really pinpoint some key things.”