It wasnt always pretty, it wasnt always easy and it didnt really count.
But the USF mens basketball team can focus on rival UCF without blemish after beating Eckerd College 74-65 in the teams first and only exhibition game of the year.
That was a good exhibition game for us. I like facing teams like Eckerd and Florida Southern, coach Stan Heath said. We have to shore up our rebounding. We thought we would just out-athlete teams and thats
not going to happen. We have to shore up our free throw shooting. Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay.
USF opened the first half lethargically and found itself down 13-8 to a scrappy Eckerd squad, before both new and old faces helped the team take control.
Sophomore point guard Anthony Collins helped turn the tides with a familiar sight and touch pass over the top of the defense to senior guard Jawanza Poland, who slammed the ball home to cut the deficit to three
and ignite the crowd.
Freshman guard Javontae Hawkins then put on a show of his own, rattling off eight straight points to give USF a lead and control of the game it would not relinquish for the rest of the night.
Hawkins finished the night with 13 points, one of three Bulls to score double digits, along with senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, junior forward Victor Rudd and Poland who had 13, 14 and 10, respectively.
Coach just told me to be aggressive and attack the basket, Hawkins said in about his early scoring burst. So I got in, attacked the rim and got to the free throw line. I find it a bit tougher out there, but I like it.
Junior transfer Martino Brock, who was in the starting lineup for his first game at USF, finished with six points and nine assists while playing both guard positions and gave the Bulls depth at the point guard spot an advantage the team did not have a season ago.
It was tough to watch (last season), Brock said. Because every day you go to shoot around and knew you werent going to play. I havent played in a long time, so it was nice to play against new people, and
get back onto the court.
Though the Bulls were not able to establish total control and had a glaring weakness in size left behind thanks to the departures of seniors Ron Anderson Jr. and Augustus Gilchrist.
The Bulls were out-rebounded 42-34 by the Tritons.
Its alarming in that we have to get tougher, Heath said. Its a teaching moment because they thought they could just go out and get them. We cant lose the attitude of rebounding and defense even though we
may be playing a little faster on offense.
After battling the Tritons, the Bulls turn their attention to instate rival UCF, who will travel to Tampa to open the regular season for the Bulls at the Sun Dome on Saturday. The game tips off at 7 p.m., and is preceded by the womens basketball home opener against Stetson at 2 p.m.