Bench shines as Bulls rout Kent State
TAMPA -- In the midst of a stretch of six games in 12 days, USF coach Stan Heath had publicly wished for a game in which his starters could build enough of an early lead he could give them some kind of rest on the bench.
The Bulls gave him that and then some Wednesday night. USF jumped out to a 24-4 lead on Kent State, and Heath turned the keys over to four freshmen in an easy 76-54 rout of the Golden Flashes before an announced crowd of 4,189 in the Sun Dome.
"For me as a coach, it was perfect," said Heath, who for the first time faced the school that gave him his first head coaching job in 2001. "I got a chance to rest my starters and play some guys who hadn't played a whole lot and let them get their feet wet. ... I couldn't have written the script any better tonight."
The Bulls (5-1) got 19 points from sophomore forward Gus Gilchrist, who had three of USF's nine 3-pointers, and junior Jarrid Famous added 16 points and eight boards. Guard Dominique Jones, who averaged 38 minutes in the first five games, scored 10 points in just 24 minutes, his lightest workday in nearly two years. All 11 healthy Bulls played at least 10 minutes, and all but one scored.
"The team wasn't just any pushover team. They had some quality wins, so this is a great win for us," Gilchrist said. "A lot of guys came off the bench and played minutes, so it was good thing for our whole team to get game experience."
Of the freshmen, forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, a King graduate, had nine points, as many as he'd totaled in the first five games. Guard Jordan Dumars hit a 3-pointer on his first possession for his first points at USF, adding another 3-pointer four minutes later. Guard Shaun Noriega added a 3-pointer of his own, and guard Mike Burwell scored his first points as a Bull.
USF continues to match its best start since 2001-02, and the key Wednesday was a dominant start to the game.
"That was men and boys the first 10 minutes," Kent State coach Geno Ford said. "We didn't play with any confidence, and I give them full credit. ... They would have beaten a lot of teams tonight."
USF continues a five-game home stand Friday night against Florida Atlantic.