Bulls run past Barry in foul-friendly exhibition
For the better part of USF's dress rehearsal Monday, the shots were errant, the tempo sputtery and the rust prevalent.
But the whistles were in mid-March form.
True to Bulls coach Stan Heath's preseason warnings, the collective crackdown by NCAA officiating crews on hand checks and body blocks began in foul force before a sparse exhibition audience at the Sun Dome.
Fifty-nine fouls and 78 free throw tries later, the Bulls had exited with an 88-53 triumph against Division II Barry.
"I've been told that we've all got to get used to it early, and the players will adjust," Heath said. "Hopefully we'll have a more free-flowing game. I know we'd all like that."
If the increased scrutiny continues, Heath says this team -- beefier in the frontcourt, deeper in the backcourt -- can exploit it.
Case in point: Monday's second half, when the Bulls took 32 trips to the line and pulled away late behind a 13-0 run. Clearly fresher down the stretch, the Bulls scored six points via transition layups off turnovers during the run.
"I think we (pushed the ball), especially in the second half," said senior Vic Rudd (15 points, eight rebounds), one of six USF players in double figures. "It did kind of slow down with the fouls, but I think you could see the way we want to play more this year."
Freshman John Egbunu (10 points, four boards, three blocks) and Chris Perry (10 points eight rebounds) also showed flashes of frontcourt dominance despite Perry picking up two fouls in the game's first 1:43.
But for all the new low-post brawn, one lingering Achilles' heel -- shooting -- remains. Whether the Bulls, 3-for-16 from 3-point range Monday, can gain a shooting touch by Saturday's season opener against Tennessee Tech remains uncertain.
Equally unclear is whether starting point guard Anthony Collins, still recovering from offseason knee surgery, will be available. Collins can practice in halfcourt settings, but experiences swelling when trying to go full, Heath said.
Collins could get results of recent tests on the knee as early as Tuesday.
"I hope he can play," Heath said. "I'm praying he can play, but I can't say yes or no."