USF controls paint, wins fourth-straight

Even without any time in the film room, the Bulls were able to defeat Florida International.

Prior to Monday night’s contest in Miami, USF requested film of the Golden Panthers but were denied repeatedly by coach Sergio Rouco.

“We finally do have film on Florida International. I’m going to call every school I can and say ‘Hey, I’ll give it to you,'” Bulls coach Stan Heath joked following a 77-69 victory. “It just wasn’t handled the way it should have been, but we’ll deal with that later. The most important part is we won the game.”

With or without any game tape, USF was able to establish Kentrell Gransberry in the middle, as the senior finished with a game-high 21 points, and held FIU to 36.5 percent shooting from the field.

The biggest surprise of the game came when Gransberry was off the court and the Bulls’ reserves put in quality minutes in his place.

Aris Williams scored a season-high five points and five rebounds, and the defense of Mohamed Esseghir kept USF in front when Gransberry was resting.

“We have to get (quality minutes from them). BJ (Ajayi) is still an option, Mohamed played well the other night and Aris was probably the guy tonight,” Heath said. “Maybe it’s just a rotation of a three-headed monster, I don’t know, but we’re definitely going to need that.”

Freshman forward Orane Chin, a graduate of Miramar High School, returned home and impressed the large group that came to the Pharmed Arena.

Chin led the Bulls with nine rebounds and scored six points in front of an estimated group of 80 friends and family members.

While the front court played well, FIU won the rebounding battle 38-35 and numerous second chance points kept it in the contest.

“We weren’t very physical, especially in the paint, and we didn’t put bodies on people,” Heath said. “It was one of those games where nothing seemed to be going our way and we just had to fight them off.

“I don’t think we played a very good basketball game – I don’t think we played our best. It’s never easy to win on the road; I don’t care who you’re playing. But we were able to win ugly.”

Florida Atlantic controlled the game early behind the three-point shooting from Alex Galindo and Chris Fuller as four of the Golden Panthers’ first seven field goals came from behind the arc.

USF surged to a halftime lead behind an 8-0 run led by Chris Howard’s two fast break lay-ups.

The biggest disparity of the game came in the field goal percentages as USF (4-3) connected on 53.8 percent of its attempts and the Golden Panthers (2-1) were limited to 36.5 from the field.

Even with the sharp contrast, FIU was still in the game until the end. With just over six minutes remaining, a shot by Badara Ndiaye cut the deficit to two.

“The stats are a little deceiving – I don’t think we were as efficient offensively. They were able to switch up on us pretty well,” Heath said. “Thank goodness we had Gransberry to get in there and make things happen. We have to find a way to deal with the switching.”