TAMPA — On an opening night when a rookie appeared poised to steal the show with splash plays, the fifth-year veteran trumped him with clutch ones.
Besieged by foul problems much of the evening, USF senior Victor Rudd scored 15 of his team-high 23 in the last 5:07 to help the Bulls hold off Tennessee Tech 72-62 at the Sun Dome in their season opener.
With the Golden Eagles chipping away at what had been a 14-point Bulls lead, Rudd helped his team re-seize the momentum in a 65-second sequence. His one-handed transition dunk off a Musa Abdul-Aleem steal elicited the night's heartiest roar from the Sun Dome audience of 4,103.
After an Eagles miss, Rudd followed with a 3-pointer, giving the hosts a 61-50 lead with 2:40 to play. He then sank his final eight free throws down the stretch, finishing 11-for-12 on an otherwise abysmal night for USF (25-for-40) from the stripe.
"Sometimes you're maybe not quite in rhythm, you're not having a great game, but you find ways to get things done, and he found ways to get things done" Saturday, said coach Stan Heath, again missing junior point guard Anthony Collins (knee).
"You want your senior to be able to do that."
While Rudd delivered in the clutch, 6-foot-8, 260-pound rookie Chris Perry sparkled in the paint.
A former Bartow High behemoth, Perry (14 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) had a mesmerizing six-point spurt early in the second half that gave the Bulls their first 10-point lead.
He followed a tip-in with an alley-oop dunk off a Corey Allen feed, and he added another dunk off an inbounds play to give USF a 36-25 advantage. For the night, he and 6-10 classmate John Egbunu finished with 21 total points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.
"(Perry) doesn't know how good he can be," Heath said. "And when he figures that out, when that light bulb really clicks on, he's an all-conference-type player."