USF guard Dominique Jones played all but four minutes of the Charleston Southern Classic tournament this weekend, but there didn’t seem to be any sign of fatigue Sunday.
Jones scored 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting and had four rebounds, three assists and six steals, leading USF to a 74-66 win against UNC-Wilmington on Sunday.
“He caused a lot of havoc for their offense and made a lot of big plays for us,” said USF coach Stan Heath. “He’s just a guy that rises to the challenges and makes tough plays.”
USF also got 14 points from forward Augustus Gilchrist and 13 from forward Jarrid Famous, but Jones was the story Sunday.
With USF holding a 56-52 lead in the second half, Jones went on an 8-0 run that included USF’s first three-pointer of the game at the 5:42 mark.
“We’re a pretty good shooting team. We just didn’t have legs today,” Heath said. “We couldn’t knock down a shot, but he hit a big three at a big time to give us a little bit more of a cushion.”
USF shot 52 percent from the floor but went 1-of-12 from three-point range and shot only 60 percent from the foul line.
Jones requested to Heath at halftime to guard Chad Tomko,
UNC-Wilmington’s leading scorer this season. Tomko had seven points in the second half, compared to 10 in the first.
“I think it was my job to step up and guard their best player,” Jones said. “I think I did a real good job of getting into the lane and making him hit tough shots. That helped put us over the edge.”
Defensively, the Bulls forced 18 turnovers, while Jones’ six steals were a career high.
“You let your defense bring your offense,” Jones said. “We did a good job on the defensive end.”
After beating Davidson 65-58 in the first round of the tournament Thursday, USF dropped its first game of the season 69-66 to South Carolina on Friday.
USF’s 4-1 start is the best one under Heath and matches the best since the 2001-02 season. The Bulls are turning around last season’s misfortunes, but the player they turn to has stayed the same, Heath said.
“I thought that changed the game quite a bit, (Jones’) defensive presence – the way he was able to steal the ball and make some defensive plays to help our team.”