CHARLESTON, S.C. — USF has a faster, stronger, more athletic team than Davidson, but it took a long time for that to manifest itself on the scoreboard Thursday night.
With Gus Gilchrist scoring 19 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, USF held on to beat the Wildcats 65-58 in the first round of the Charleston Classic at Carolina First Arena.
"That was a really tough game," said coach Stan Heath, whose Bulls improved to 3-0. "We just could not shake them. We knew they were awfully good. I'm really proud of my guys.
"In some ways, I'd like for us to win by 15, game over and finish it that way. But I think in the long run a game like that can pay dividends for us because we're going to see more situations like that."
The Bulls play at 9:30 tonight (no TV; radio 1250-AM) against South Carolina (3-0), which beat La Salle 78-68.
USF led Davidson 60-48 with 4:09 to play, and it looked like the Bulls were well on their way to putting the Wildcats away. But Davidson (0-2) cut their lead to two with 57 seconds remaining.
The Bulls kept pounding the ball inside to Gilchrist, and though he couldn't finish, he drew fouls and made 5 of 6 free throws in the closing seconds to help USF hang on.
"I was just patient and took my time in the offense," said Gilchrist, who made 15 of 16 free throws for the game. "We needed to win this game to make a statement for the whole tournament. I started getting the ball, and I was able to knock it down."
Gilchrist, who played 11 minutes in the first half after picking up his second foul, said he was not surprised that Davidson stayed with the Bulls.
"They're good defensively, and offensively they run it through a lot of screens and make you chase," he said. "We had to deal with that. They were trying to get us tired defensively, but we stayed with it. It was a little sloppy, but sometimes the games go like that. But we were well prepared, and it just shows the toughness of our team."
USF got 17 points from guard Dominique Jones. Jones and Gilchrist combined to score 29 of the Bulls' 37 points in the second half.
"It was a good team effort and a terrific win against a terrific opponent," Heath said.