Fresh faces and career firsts carried the men’s basketball team to victory Friday night.
After South Carolina State captured the momentum early, the Bulls rallied back for an 82-69 win.
An 11-2 spurt propelled the Bulls to a 37-36 halftime lead, the Bulls stole the momentum and never trailed in the second half.
“(Taking a half-time lead) was huge, the last four-minute stretch of the first half was the only part we won,” coach Robert McCullum said. “And to take the first four minutes of the second half, that really let us regain some momentum.”
Senior McHugh Mattis sparked the team by setting a career-high with seven blocked shots along with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“(Blocking shots) is all I’ve been doing,” Mattis said. “I just try and get everything that goes up.”
Mattis fell three blocks shy of becoming the second player in team history to record a triple-double. Adrian Hillman is the lone Bull to accomplish the feat. In 1996, he notched 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Friday marked the eighth double-double of Mattis’ career.
For the second consecutive game a freshman made an impressive debut for USF.
Forward Adamu Saaka knocked down four of five shot attempts including a 3-pointer, for 12 points and 4 assists in his initial game.
“I was told to let the game come to me and that really helped me settle down,” Saaka said. “If one of us has a bad game then we all have to set up, so that’s what happened.”
During the season opener, fellow freshman Soloman Bozeman scored 23 points in his debut. He finished with six points and led the team with nine assists against South Carolina State.
Bozeman’s name wasn’t on the back of his jersey for the second consecutive game and his teammates took the opportunity to joke with him about it.
“I got him a couple of times on that,” Saaka said. “I was calling him ‘what’s his name’ tonight. But he’ll bounce back; his jersey will bounce back next time.”
Along with Saaka and Bozeman, sophomore Aris Williams scored his first collegiate career points en rout to a nine-point, five-rebound effort. Williams had to sit out last season after transferring from Valparaiso.
Senior Chris Capko matched a career-high with 10 points including his first career 3-pointer two minutes into the game.
USF earned its first victory against an opponent from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference during the program’s 35-year history.