Fordham coach Bob Hill missed his team’s first game at DePaul while in the hospital undergoing minor surgery. After witnessing the Rams turn the ball over 29 times against USF, Hill might have a case of indigestion.
All five of the Bulls starters scored in double-digits as USF pulled away in the second half to win their season opener 104-84 against the Rams at the Sun Dome Monday.
“I really wanted us to attack, and I guess 104 points is the definition of attacking,” coach Seth Greenberg said. “It was a good way to start the season.”
The Bulls got 25 points from Altron Jackson and 21 from Reggie Kohn in avenging an 81-72 loss to Fordham Dec. 2. Although Greenberg said USF did not use revenge as motivation for Monday’s game, it was clear the loss at Madison Square Garden last year was still fresh in the minds of the Bulls.
“We wanted revenge,” Jackson said. “They beat us last year, and we just wanted to let them know that we own the Dome (and) you can’t come down here from New York thinking you can just beat us like that. That’s just disrespectful.”
The Bulls used an up-tempo, run-and-gun attack in reaching the 100-point plateau for the first time since scoring 109 against FAU Dec. 14 1999. Jackson went 8-of-20 from the floor, but was 5-of-8 from behind the three-point arc, while Kohn hit all five of his three-point attempts.
“This is my style of play, running up and down the court – running and shooting,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The first half was characterized by turnovers and sloppy play from both teams as the Bulls took a 45-41 lead into the locker room. USF struggled early with Fordham’s full-court press committing 15 turnovers, while the Bulls defensive pressure led to 20 Ram turnovers.
“The first half we came out a little sloppy,” Kohn said. “They got all their points by our turnovers … we had to get the first game jitters out.”
Greenberg said some halftime adjustments to the Rams’ pressure was key in USF turning the ball over only four times in the second half.
“We talked about (handling Fordham’s press) at halftime,” Greenberg said. “Technically, the middle guy in the press offense wasn’t stepping up far enough to force the back line to play. We just stepped him up a little bit so they had to pinch, so we had diagonal passes up the sideline.”
Hill said the Bulls, who featured a nine-man rotation, were able to wear Fordham down by keeping fresh legs in the game.
“I thought we fatigued,” Hill said. “I think maybe we tried to press them too much early, then when we went back to it, we had a hard time keeping Kohn in front of us … and we broke down.”
USF went on a 21-12 run to open the second half, sparked by nine points from Kohn and four consecutive baskets from center Will McDonald. The run was punctuated by Kohn when the junior point guard stole a pass near midcourt, pushed the ball and pulled up for a three pointer to stretch the lead to 66-53 with 14:50 to play.
“We came out in the second half … and took care of the ball,” Kohn said. “We’re going to push the ball, we’re going to run and we’re going to score.”
Fordham cut the lead to 73-69 on a Mark Jarrell-Wright basket with 10:25 left to play, but five minutes later, the lead ballooned to 16 after freshman Brian Swift drained a three-pointer, putting USF comfortably ahead 91-75.
In addition to better ball handling in the second half, the Bulls got strong play from their frontcourt in outrebounding Fordham 46-40, including a 23-15 advantage on the offensive glass. B.B. Waldon (13 points, 12 rebounds) and McDonald (14 points, 10 rebounds) both chalked up double-doubles.
“(We) just got our butts kicked on the boards,” Hill said. “They just pushed us around, jumped over our backs (and we) didn’t block out. (USF) played well.”
- Brandon Wright covers men’s basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org