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Bulls begin regular season

Stan Heath said there will be a lot of challenges facing the South Florida men’s basketball team this season.

The first one, he said, will be Friday’s matchup against Southern Methodist at 7 p.m. at the Sun Dome.

The game will mark the beginning of the second season of the Stan Heath era. Last year, the Bulls went 12-19 with a 3-15 record in the Big East.

Heath, however, said he’s ready to get this season started.

“It’s a very exciting time in the year,” he said. “We’re ready to get out there and put all of the practice we’ve had to use and see what we can do.”

Heath said the players are looking forward to playing their first meaningful game since March 8, when the Bulls’ season ended in a 67-60 loss to Notre Dame.

He also said the Bulls’ second exhibition game — a 79-64 victory over the University of Tampa — was a wake-up call for the team. The Spartans trailed 55-49 with about seven minutes remaining in the game before USF pulled away.

Heath said the competitiveness of that game was good for the Bulls heading into the regular season.

“It was good for us to get something meaningful out of an exhibition,” he said. “I think that the guys will play a little different when they know the games count on their resumes.”

The Bulls return all three of their guards from last year’s team, led by sophomore Dominique Jones. Jones was seventh in the Big East, averaging 17.1 points per game. Junior Chris Howard and senior Jesus Verdejo round out the backcourt.

Heath said he wants the Bulls to get off to a better start than last year, when they began the regular season with three consecutive losses.

SMU was 10-20 last season, and went 4-12 in Conference USA games.

Heath said the Bulls aren’t going to overlook anybody this season after the exhibition against UT.

“It’s really hard to read into scores, especially when you play a Division-II opponent,” he said. “There are so many games right now that Division-I teams are losing. Teams are playing two-, three-, four-, five-point games. I want our team to learn from that and be ready for our big game Friday night.”