Bulls win final exhibition

Turnovers, poor three-point shooting and a pesky University of Tampa backcourt plagued the South Florida men’s basketball team Monday night.

The Bulls turned the ball over 13 times and went 4-of-14 from the three-point line, but managed to fight off the Spartans 79-64 in their final tune-up for the regular season, which begins Friday at the Sun Dome.

“We’ll take the win, but we know we have a lot of work to do to get ready for Friday,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “I didn’t leave this game feeling like we had everything that we needed to under control.”

Unlike their first exhibition — where the Bulls jumped to a quick lead — the team couldn’t find a rhythm early in the game.

USF turned the ball over 6 times in the first half, and the Spartans capitalized on USF’s mistakes. The Bulls took a 37-31 lead into the break, and were up 55-49 with about six minutes to play.

The Spartans, led by guards Rashad Calloway and Fred Woods with 15 and 16 points, respectively, just couldn’t find the energy to finish.

“I thought their guards were very tough,” Heath said. “I thought they did a good job of attacking some areas that I think we need to get better at.”

The Bulls were led by senior guard Jesus Verdejo. He scored 27 points and was the only USF player to make a three-pointer, going 4-of-7 from three-point range.

Verdejo thanked his teammates for his big night.

“They are the ones who gave me the ball,” he said. “At the halftime break, everyone told me to keep shooting it. My teammates had confidence in me. The coaches had confidence in me, and that meant a lot.”

Junior guard Chris Howard had 18 points and five assists, and sophomore guard Dominique Jones had eight points and 11 assists.

Jones is the Bulls’ leading scorer, and he was coming off of a 26-point performance in the Bulls’ first exhibition.

“I thought Dominique had one of his more difficult contests,” Heath said. “I think that he just wasn’t as productive as I know he can be.”

Howard, however, said Jones’ 11 assists played a key role in USF’s win.

“I thought that was big,” he said. “Everybody wants to talk like he had a bad game, but he was two points away from a double-double. It was a learning experience for him, and it’s definitely going to help him tomorrow.”