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Bulls pound Braves in bounce-back win

Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 08:11

For 40 minutes, three-pointers were splashing through the net, alley-oop passes were being snagged and slammed into the hoop and rebounds were careening toward the players in white uniforms.

Turnovers seemed to end in defensive stops, tough misses seemed to finish with offensive rebounds and bad offensive possessions appeared to turn into a bail-out foul call.

In essence, the Bulls got the kind of win they were looking for after a tough loss to Western Michigan in the form of a wire-to-wire, dominating 82-63 win against the overmatched Bradley Braves on Tuesday night.

“We played well, and I think we caught Bradley on a little bit of an off night,” coach Stan Heath said. “We played a lot faster, pushed the ball down the court and had a nice balance from our team, and we kept it going for a large part of the game.”

USF’s dominance was evident from the opening tip as the Bulls ripped off a 13-4 run to open the game, closed off by a floating pass from sophomore Anthony Collins that senior Shaun Noriega grabbed and laid into the hoop, forcing the Braves to call the first timeout of the game — and from there the Bulls did not look back.

“It gave us a lot of confidence,” senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. “And with freshmen giving us the spark off the bench and coming off the bench this season, it rallied our team and gave the bench confidence when we got our starters going early.”

After struggling early in the season from three-point range shooting — 37 percent from behind the arc in the first four games — the Bulls found the bottom of the net time after time, hitting eight of 18 attempts, led by four three-pointers from Fitzpatrick, who led the team with 16 points.

The Bulls also managed to win the rebounding battle for just the second time this season, out-rebounding the Braves 42-32 and attacking the offensive glass on their way to 12 offensive rebounds and 19 second chance points.

Fan favorite Jordan Omogbehin, the 7-foot-3 Nigerian center who had his first career start against Maryland Eastern Shore on Friday night, came off the bench and played a career-high 14 minutes. Finishing with six points and six rebounds, including a moment early in the first half when the freshman grabbed a defensive rebound and finished a lay-up on the offensive end, Omogbehin earned perhaps his loudest cheer of the night.

“He’s a crowd favorite,” junior Victor Rudd said. “He was the crowd favorite last year, and he didn’t even play.”

Heath said Omogbehin’s size can force opponents into reconsidering shots in the paint.

“Sometimes he wants to block the shot,” he said. “And I tell him ‘You don’t need to leave your feet. You can just stand there and make them think,’ and that puts him in a better position to rebound when he doesn’t jump on the first shot.”

The victory moved the Bulls to 3-2 on the season as they prepare for their first road trip of the season to Deland, Fla. to play Stetson on Monday.


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