USF’s lack of depth hasn’t affected the Bulls yet. The team barely needed all eight players who dressed — freshman Konimba Diarra played six minutes, and disciplinary issues had Terrence Leather benched for the first half — to knock off Wright State 74-59 Saturday.
However, the Raiders (0-2) are also the same team that dropped their season opener to a Division II school — Cedarville (Ohio), which is NAIA Division II. They don’t offer scholarships, but the Bulls having a dwindling number of those too. USF has only 10 players on scholarship. Brandon Brigman, who missed USF’s opener against Florida Atlantic on an academic suspension, didn’t compete against Wright State due to a hernia. Sam Barber didn’t play for personal reasons but was seen in the stands during the game.
Not that the Bulls were hurting for help, as coach Robert McCullum registered his third victory in as many tries with USF. Jimmy Baxter put his scoreless outing at Valparaiso behind him and matched his jersey number in points with 22 on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor.
“Good players, you don’t have to tell them when they play poorly,” McCullum said. “They realize it, and more than anyone else, they probably can’t wait to get back out there and try to right the wrongs that they had.”
Gerrick Morris continued to play like a man possessed. The 6-foot-10 senior had 11 rebounds — the second double-digit board game in his career — and 10 blocks. In fact, his point total of eight was the only thing keeping Morris from a triple-double. The performance evoked Morris’ memorable outing as a freshman against George Washington University when he picked up nine points and nine rebounds to couple with a school-record 11 blocks.
“The fact that he blocked two or three early in the game meant that they were looking for him,” McCullum said. “They were more hesitant. That was clearly the difference. Defense clearly is carrying us. His presence inside is a big part of that.”
Wright State had a pair of capable scorers in Seth Doliboa (averaging 22.3 points per game last year) and Vernard Hollins (19.9), two of the Horizon League’s top three scorers, but Doliboa was a non-factor. While Hollins lifted his team with 22 points, the Raiders mustered just 3-of-12 shooting from Doliboa.
But defense hasn’t been the Bulls’ bugaboo. Turnovers, 18 of which occurred Saturday, have USF still searching for answers.
“We are turning the ball over far more than what we want to turn it over,” McCullum said. “Good teams just can’t turn the basketball over that much and that is an area we have to improve in and we have to improve fast. That’s really taking away from our offensive production.”