TAMPA — USF might have to get used to life without forward Augustus Gilchrist, but the Bulls' remaining three post players stepped up Wednesday night, leading USF to a 61-49 win against Auburn in the Sun Dome.
"It's been a little difficult in the last week, just staying locked in and focused on what's important," Heath said after the Bulls ended a two-game losing streak before an announced crowd of 2,896.
Starters Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Ron Anderson and backup Jarrid Famous helped the Bulls (6-5) dominate the boards, outrebounding the Tigers (3-6) by a 40-28 margin. Heath has been pleading for his players to get to the line more, and the post players listened, with those three going a combined 17-for-29 from the line.
Famous finished with a season-high 15 points, including a dunk in the final minute to punctuate the win. Anderson continued his strong rebounding with a game-high 12 rebounds, and Fitzpatrick had six points and nine boards.
"I think overall, collectively, all three of us played really well," Anderson said. "We had to pick up our focus. Everything had to be that much crisper. We had to execute that much more, and we finally did that (Wednesday). It's a huge confident booster for the team."
Heath said after the game that he doesn't expect Gilchrist, the Bulls' top scorer until leaving the team last week, to return.
USF has struggled offensively in nonconference play, but the defense has been solid, as was the case Wednesday when the Bulls held Auburn to 29 percent shooting in the first half. Leading by just four at halftime, USF held the Tigers to four points in the first six minutes of the second half to build a 39-28 lead. Auburn wouldn't get closer than six points the rest of the way.
If the Bulls want to contend in the Big East, they'll need consistent perimeter shooting to complement their frontcourt, and they got that Wednesday against their SEC opponent, with two 3-pointers each from Hugh Robertson and Mike Burwell and another from point guard Anthony Crater, who added seven assists.
And after turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, the Bulls took care of the ball in the second half, with just three turnovers.
Times writer Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check him out at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.