Despite some serious adversity, USF men's basketball is now 3-0 following a 73-71 overtime win over UAB last night in Birmingham.
It's really hard to win on the road in modern college basketball. It's even tougher to do during midweek games. But it can be almost impossible WHEN YOUR OPPONENT GETS FORTY-SEVEN FREAKING FREE THROW ATTEMPTS IN A DAMN 40 MINUTE GAME!! USF got just 17, and I'm sure this game was called right down the middle with absolutely no home court bias oh wait a minute...
The official's crew chief tonight was Rick Hartzell, who besides being the former athletic director at Northern Iowa (!!) is 2nd all-time among referees since 1997 in home foul differential, behind only the legendarily terrible and thank-God-he-retired Ed Hightower.
So it's likely the Bulls didn't get anywhere near a fair shake tonight. But they somehow managed to get a win anyway despite:
* A short bench. 6'10 Ruben Guerrero made the trip but not his Bulls debut as he's apparently still hampered with a groin injury. USF used nine players, but got just 15 minutes out of Jaleel Cousins and three from Dinero Mercurius.
* LOTS of foul trouble. The 30 team fouls were the most by a USF team since... a 2002 double OT loss to UAB in Birmingham. Chris Perry (41 min) and Bo Zeigler (22 min) were both DQ'ed.
* An apparent benching of starting center Jaleel Cousins: 2 points, 3 fouls, & 0 rebounds in 15 min tonight.
* 24 turnovers... but that's a lot easier to take when you shoot 30-56 from the floor and 4-9 from three.
Chris Perry continues to make the most of his summer conditioning and weight loss, picking up 18 points and eight rebounds in 41 minutes of action before fouling out in the OT. Perry has been the star for the Bulls so far this season, averaging 19 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He looks like a totally different player with all that baby fat gone, and playing 41 minutes tonight shows the weight loss has helped his conditioning. We love @SkippyWalnuts, but there was no chance he was logging 40+ last season.
Anthony Collins shined in overtime, scoring eight of the Bulls 12 points in the extra five minutes. The junior point guard looks to be back to his old self, averaging 11 points a game and 5.7 assists while shooting over 50% from the field this year. For the first time since the 2012 NCAA Tournament, #11 looks to be healthy and is playing like the dynamic point guard that gets so low with his dribble & makes all those floaters you remember from the Dentist Chair team.
AC missed a layup at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime, but then took over for the win. Orlando Antigua's system is such a better fit for his skill set than the plodding offense of Stan Heath, and it's showing already.
We've heard so much about Troy Holston Jr., the sharp-shooting guard out of Oldsmar Christian in Pinellas. Tonight in his third collegiate game it started to come together: 3-5 from downtown for 11 points. The Bulls are going to need wings to score from deep to have a chance to compete, and the long ball will need to fall for the team that finished 344th and dead last in America in 3-pointers made last season.
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There seem to be a lot of options for the Bulls at the wing positions (we really like JC transfer Nehemias Morillo), but we've been holding off on writing a preview until we see Guerrero on the floor. He seems the type of player at 6'10 that will help free up Cousins and Perry in the front court, but how raw is he? Can he give legit minutes and contribute at the top of the rotation this year?
If the Bulls are going to have problems this year, it'll be up front. Cousins fouled out in just 13 minutes against Jackson State last Sunday, then had a rough night against the Blazers. That's no bueno for a team lacking depth at the rim and will need him to contribute. Can he stay on the floor to use that size and athleticism that looks so tantalizing? It might be too soon to tell.
But here's what we do know: this team is a helluva lot more fun to watch this season. They run and shoot more, play fast, and work hard on both ends of the floor. And we are ALL-IN on Orlando Antigua. This guy knows what he's doing, and will get USF turned around quickly.
The Bulls take on North Carolina State at 4 p.m. on Sunday on ESPNU. It's another road test which will help gauge where they are, but it's also a chance to see a fun, entertaining team play some good comp.
Entertaining USF Men's Basketball: Hallelujah!