TAMPA — With a dominating start and improved rebounding from his Bulls on Tuesday night, Stan Heath can enjoy Thanksgiving a little easier.
"It's always one of my goals to win before a holiday. Nothing worse than a loss before a holiday," Heath said after USF cruised to an 82-63 win against Bradley in front of an announced 4,768 at the Sun Dome. "We played well. We certainly played, for 30 minutes, our best game, and we caught Bradley in a little bit of an off night."
The Bulls (3-2) jumped out to a 23-9 lead and gave Heath what he wanted in a 42-32 rebounding edge, led by forward Victor Rudd's 15 points and 12 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 junior turned his focus away from 3-pointers and established himself as a physical presence inside.
"I was really pleased with him. He has not been playing well at all," Heath said. "He's been so reliant on shooting that 3-point shot. At his size, he's a versatile player. Rebound, get to the basket, get to the free-throw line, have a midrange game. Then shoot the 3."
The Bulls bounced back from a 58-53 loss Sunday to Western Michigan with balanced scoring. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick had 16, Shaun Noriega 14 and Kore White 11, with point guard Anthony Collins getting eight points and 10 assists. USF led by as many as 34 before emptying the bench in the final 10 minutes.
"Coach was harping on us in practice about how we got outrebounded. We had to get back to beating teams on the glass," Fitzpatrick said. "Everybody had rebounding on the brain, so we were trying to crash, myself included."
Bradley (3-1) got within six before halftime, but the Bulls led 43-26 at the half, then used a 19-1 run early in the second to put the game well out of reach. USF gets the holiday weekend off, then returns to play Monday at Stetson for its first road game of the season.