Men’s basketball wins ’08 opener

The South Florida men’s basketball team opened the 2008 season with a 60-46 win against the Southern Methodist Mustangs on Friday night at the Sun Dome. The win is a shift away from the gritty start of the 2007 season, which began with three consecutive losses before coach Stan Heath got his first win as a Bull.

“Last year, I thought we played ugly and we lost, and this year we played ugly and won,” Heath said. “I’m much happier with this result.”

The Bulls didn’t lead the Mustangs until junior forward Alex Rivas Sanchez scored, giving USF an 18-17 lead with about five minutes left in the first half.

Once USF got the lead, however, the team retained it for the rest of the game.

“We obviously struggled around the basket,” Heath said. “Tonight, I thought our defense stepped up.”

The Bulls forced 16 turnovers and held the Mustangs to 27 percent shooting from the field.

USF wasn’t much better, shooting 36 percent from the field and committing 10 turnovers.

“I would like to think both teams just played pretty good defense,” SMU coach Matt Doherty said. “I thought we both contested shots well, and both played well defensively.”

Sophomore guard Dominique Jones — who led the Bulls with 17.1 points per game last season — was 5-of-16 from the field with 13 points and six assists. Senior guard Jesus Verdejo led all scorers with 18 points.

“I think sometimes I was trying too hard, but mostly, I was just trying to make something happen,” Jones said. “I was just trying to make something happen for the team, but the shots just weren’t falling. I can never feel like I’m trying to do too much.”

Jones said it was good to start the season off with a victory.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of good games and we’ve lost, so it was nice to go out there and get a win.”