Bulls off to hot start

Wins were tough to come by for the men’s basketball team last season, and of the seven games in which the Bulls (3-0) came out on top, none were by a bigger margin than in their win Tuesday.

About an hour after the women’s team beat Stetson 95-52 in the first game of a doubleheader at the Sun Dome, the men’s team also won convincingly, beating Florida International 79-50 in front of 2,537 fans.

The Bulls were nearly perfect from the field to start the game, making nine of their first 10 field goals and finishing the first half with a 43-27 lead and a 70.8 shooting percentage from the field.

“(Getting an early lead) is something that we focused on,” senior Melvin Buckley said. “Coach was like, ‘Hey, we need to come out (and) win the first four minutes of every game,’ and that’s something that we’re really trying to stress.”

Despite losing all but one Big East game last season, USF stayed close in most conference games, and in their first two wins this season against Buffalo and South Carolina State, the Bulls’ leads at halftime were a combined four points.

The win against the Golden Panthers (2-3) was a different story, as USF went on a 30-10 run early in the first half to put the game out of reach.

“It’s kind of hard actually because you’re playing against what coach likes to call human nature, where you just kind of stand up because we’ve got a 12- (or) 14-point lead,” Buckley said. “To gain a lead and to keep it is probably the hardest thing you can do.”

The win marked the second straight game in which senior McHugh Mattis scored a double-double. Mattis scored a game-high 22 points and led all players with 14 rebounds. Both stats were one shy of his career highs.

The Bulls had 48 rebounds, three more than their season-high last year.

“That’s what we’ve been working on at practice the whole time, just rebounding,” Mattis said. “Because the last two games we didn’t rebound the ball too well.”

Senior Melvyn Richardson, the Bulls’ starting center at least until mid-December when Kentrell Gransberry is eligible, came up one rebound shy of a double-double. Richardson finished with a career-high 15 points before fouling out toward the end of the game.

“It was really exciting because coach will have confidence in me this year,” said Richardson, who started six games at forward last season. “This year I’m stronger. I’m a senior, (so) I have to step up for my team and do something well.”

Last season, USF faced FIU on the road in a game that ended in a 69-64 double-overtime loss for the Bulls. This year, players feel the difference is USF’s depth.

“We went home last year on a four- (or) five-hour bus ride, tails between our legs, just sulking the whole way back,” Buckley said. “To come out here (Tuesday night) and win by the means that we won by – it’s definitely a confidence builder, and (it’s) two things that we didn’t accomplish last year, which is to go 3-0 and beat FIU.”