DELAND — Stan Heath gambled Monday night at Stetson, holding out point guard Anthony Collins with the hopes of healing the calf injury that has limited him in the first three weeks of the season.
Without their floor leader, the Bulls were tied with the Hatters with less than four minutes remaining, but they got a clutch 8-0 run and pulled out a 63-54 victory before 1,063 at the Edmunds Center in their first road game of the season.
"I knew we'd a little bit out of synch, would have to fight for some baskets. I was pleased that our defense came to play," said Heath, whose players got four stops during the big run.
The Bulls (4-2) got 20 points and nine rebounds from senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and a huge spark off the bench from guard Jawanza Poland, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Martino Brock, filling in for Collins, had 10 points and seven rebounds with two turnovers in 34 minutes; and walk-on Mike McCloskey had a career-best 11 minutes running the point, with two assists and no turnovers.
"We knew they were going to make runs. Coach Heath told me as point guard to make sure we stay together the whole time," said Brock, who sat next to Collins on the bench, getting insights from the sophomore.
The Bulls outrebounded Stetson (2-2) 41-31, improving in a key area where they struggled in the first five games. Stetson played without its top scorer and rebounder, Clearwater's Adam Pegg, who was ejected from the previous game and had to sit out Monday. USF's Victor Rudd had just four points and took only three shots but had nine rebounds.
Fitzpatrick had four rebounds in the final six minutes, and his three-point play extended USF's lead to five during the run.
"He's playing like a senior. He wants it, really wants to win," Heath said. "He's showing great leadership out there, doing whatever it takes to help this team win."
Heath is optimistic Collins will play Friday, when USF plays host to Georgia. After that, the Bulls play at Oklahoma State on Dec. 5, then have 13 days off during exams, allowing Collins more time to regain full strength.