Excitement filled the air as a lively Yuengling Center crowd of 3,807 witnessed Bulls coach Amir Abdur-Rahim – and his retooled roster – take the court for the first time this season.
The Bulls won 96-52 against South Carolina State in Abdur-Rahim’s USF coaching debut.
The win happened to be a historic one. The 44-point victory is the largest margin for a USF men’s basketball coaching debut in program history.
Former head coach Chip Conner held the previous record. He led the Bulls to an 18-point victory against UCF in 1975.
After seven months of anticipation, Abdur-Rahim said celebrating the victory with his team meant more than any personal accolade.
“Every chance we get to take the court, it’s an opportunity for us to get better,” Abdur-Rahim said. “I get excited about that.”
Abdur-Rahim said the team’s ball distribution was impressive. The Bulls had 24 assists on 34 made field goals.
Five Bulls scored in double-digits, with senior guard Chris Youngblood leading the way. He had 19 points in his USF debut after transferring from Kennesaw State.
Senior guard Selton Miguel followed with 18 points off the bench shooting an efficient seven for 11 from the floor.
Abdur-Rahim said the Bulls’ offensive versatility could pose a threat to opposing defenses throughout the season.
“When you got one, two, three, four, five, guys [scoring] in double figures, it’s pick your poison. Who are you going to stop?,” Abdur-Rahim said.
The Bulls ushered in the new era in dominant fashion, up 47-23 at the break. The team’s 24-point lead has surpassed its largest halftime lead last season of 15 against Tulsa on Feb. 22.
Miguel and freshman guard Jayden Reid combined for 24 points off the bench in the first half – outscoring the entire Bulldogs roster combined.
Reid racked up a double-double in his collegiate debut, scoring 11 points and dishing out 10 assists in the win. He also added five steals.
Junior forward Sam Hines Jr. had high praise for the freshman.
“I knew Jayden was special but today he made it even more apparent,” Hines Jr. said. “He’s got a great future ahead of him as long as he can keep working hard and stay focused.”
The defense also showed out, holding South Carolina State to zero made three-pointers on 18 attempts.
The Bulls forced 21 turnovers, capitalizing offensively by scoring 27 points off the Bulldogs.
Youngblood said the key to playing elite defense is simple – just know your role.
“We just stick to our principles and stay solid,” Youngblood said. “Sometimes they give you the ball in the right place and you get steals.”
The onslaught continued into the second half, with the Bulls pulling away from its double-digit halftime lead. Hines Jr. scored all of his points in the second half, shooting a perfect five for five from the field.
He added three dunks in the high-flying victory.
Picking up a blowout win in his first career game, Abdur-Rahim said he is using this moment to propel his vision for the rest of the season – and the program itself.
To bring the program to prominence.
“I say this humbly – I got a bigger picture,” Abdur-Rahim said. “I got a bigger vision in mind. And this is part of it.”