Bulls impress in exhibition debut

In their only public exhibition game prior to the regular season, the USF men’s basketball team showed reason to be excited in a 75-43 thrashing of the University of Tampa on Saturday night in the Bob Martinez Sports Center.

Despite having only nine players available, the Bulls played a high-paced offense against their Division II opponents, taking an early lead and allowing coach Stan Heath to experiment with different lineups a week before tipping off the regular season against Vermont.

“We’re just trying to get ready for our season,” Heath said. “I thought we, for the most part, ran our stuff. We had good tempo, good pace, we defended pretty well … I think the guys were excited to play somebody else. You get tired of beating yourself up all the time.”

Four of the Bulls’ five starters reached double figures in points, with Augustus Gilchrist’s 21 leading the way. Shaun Noriega, Ron Anderson Jr. and Victor Rudd Jr. each contributed 11 points, with Rudd finishing a rebound short of a double-double.

“I thought (Gilchrist) was a force down low,” Heath said. “I thought he took good shots, high-percentage shots … I thought he was in good, midseason form.”

In his public debut after sitting out last season following his transfer from Arizona State, Rudd, a 6-foot-7, 207-pound wing player, impressed with his athleticism and penetration ability, finishing a pair of highlight dunks.

Heath said there’s more to see in Rudd’s game.

“I think you saw an average game for (Rudd),” he said. “I thought he was excited to play. He hadn’t played in a long time in front of the public, but he can do a lot more. He’s very talented. He hit some threes, had a monstrous dunk … he’s an extremely talented guy.”

Rudd enjoyed the chance to showcase his abilities for the first time in a USF uniform.

“It felt good, because I haven’t played in a while,” Rudd said. “I try to (impress with my athleticism). That’s what my game is built around.”

Following the dismissal of point guard Anthony Crater for a violation of team rules in May, USF’s depth at the one guard has been a concern in the buildup to the season, with sophomore LaVonte Dority and newcomers Blake Nash and Anthony Collins as the only point guards on the roster. Collins did not dress for the game.

Dority got the start and the majority of the minutes Saturday, playing 28 minutes compared to Nash’s 15, but the pair impressed. Neither point guard committed a turnover.

“I didn’t see any turnovers, and that’s the biggest thing,” Heath said. “I thought they made good decisions out there on the floor and they were solid.”

While their shooting from the floor was sharp against the Spartans, the Bulls struggled from the free-throw line. The Bulls shot 53.8 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from three-point range, but only managed to go 15-for-32, 46.9 percent, from the free-throw line.

“Obviously, that free-throw shooting is not up to par, right now,” Heath said. “We’ve got to get in the gym and make sure we’re strong in that area, because we weren’t tonight.”

The Bulls will be back in the Bob Martinez Sports Center on Saturday night for their regular season debut.