TAMPA — USF forward Gus Gilchrist did just about everything Friday night.
The sophomore scored a career-high 27 points, including 23 in the second half, and added a steady defensive performance as the Bulls eased past Florida Atlantic 78-58 before an announced 4,571 at the Sun Dome.
"It seemed like the light switch just went off," USF coach Stan Heath said. "The next thing you know, he's in a groove, and he just makes shot after shot after shot.
"It's a luxury to have a big guy who can play around the basket and also step away to open up the offense."
Gilchrist, listed at 6 feet 10, 245 pounds, finished 10-of-12 from the field, hit both of his 3-point attempts and was 5-of-7 from the free-throw line. He also matched a season high with three blocks and added seven rebounds.
"I had my typical first half: score a little bit, rebounds were okay. But in the second half, the game was close and I just felt it," Gilchrist said. "My teammates kept feeding me the ball, and I delivered."
The Owls (2-3) pulled within 39-36 a few minutes into the second half. But USF (6-1) used a 19-0 run spanning the next seven minutes to put the game out of reach. Gilchrist had 10 points during the stretch.
"Gilchrist is probably as good of a big man as we'll play this year," FAU coach Mike Jarvis said. "He's legit. He's a definite pro prospect."
Gilchrist was held to four points in the first half as FAU and USF exchanged a series of runs, the Owls replying seemingly every time the Bulls seemed poised to build a substantial lead.
USF made 6 of 12 3-point attempts to take a 35-29 halftime lead. Guard Chris Howard, who scored a season-high 15 points, was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers in the half.
Howard said Gilchrist's ability to stretch the floor opened up the offense, which faced a 2-3 zone for a majority of the game.
"I'm no professional, but I think that's what makes him a guy that can get to the next level," he said. "The height and being able to stretch the floor gives you a great chance to play at the next level."
USF, which made a season-high 10 3-pointers, matched its best start since 2001-02.