With the football team struggling, there was a lot of excitement and hype around the USF men's basketball program entering this season; fresh off of an NCAA tourney appearance and the reopening of the revamped Sun Dome. Even the opponent was a fitting one to open the season as the Bulls faced their arch nemesis and future conference mates in the UCF Knights.
However, it didn't take long for the excitement to dissipate, as the Knights took an early lead and never looked back, dispatching the Bulls with a 74-56 victory in front of a crowd of 7,717. The crowd represented the largest home crowd for a Bulls non-conference opponent ever. The Bulls never seemed to find their rhythm on offense and the defense clearly missed their bigs from last year in Ron Anderson and Gus Gilchrist. The Bulls' transition offense and defense struggled in all facets. The Bulls will have a lot to work on before their next game against Maryland Eastern Shore.
UCF guard Isaiah Sykes led all scorers with 24 points and set the tone for what would be a blowout Knights' victory. UCF power forward Keith Clanton added a double-double, notching 16 points and 16 boards.
On the flip side, the Bulls' stars struggled as Anthony Collins and Victor Rudd combined for 5-20 from the field for 12 points. The only Bulls player that showed up came off the bench as guard Jawanza Poland scored a career-high 22 points on 8 for 11 shooting.
"For us offensively, the only bright spot was Poland. We never really got anyone else going" according to Heath.
The most telling stat of the game was the rebounding differential, as the Bulls were dominated on the boards 45 to 26 including a -7 differential on the offensive glass.
USF coach Stan Heath expressed much disappointment after the game.
"They beat us in areas that really bothered me, they dominated the glass, they got most of the loose balls and effort plays. We've always been pretty good at taking away the [other] team's top players but their top players just dominated the game."
The Bulls will have a lot of things to consider as they prepare for their next opponent and will have to make the necessary adjustments if they expect to return to the post season. The season is still young and there is time to improve, however this was not a good way to start a season with so much momentum coming into the game.
"Our team needs some time, we need some time to really figure some things out and get back to playing defense the way we need to, rebounding especially. And them becoming a team that can share the ball and execute a lot better."
- USF shot 36% from the field
- USF was out rebounded 45 to 26 and 16 to 9 on the offensive glass
- Freshman Zach LeDay earned the start tonight at forward.
- UCF had 31 attempts from the free throw line to USF's 17
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