TAMPA — In the midst of six games in 12 days, USF coach Stan Heath had publicly wished for a game in which his starters could build enough of an early lead so he could give them some kind of rest.
The Bulls gave him that and then some Wednesday night.
USF jumped out to a 24-4 lead on Kent State, and Heath turned the keys over to four freshmen in an easy 76-54 rout of the Golden Flashes before an announced 4,189 at the Sun Dome.
"For me as a coach, it was perfect," said Heath, who for the first time faced the school that gave him his first head coaching job in 2001.
"I got a chance to rest my starters and play some guys who hadn't played a whole lot and let them get their feet wet. I couldn't have written the script any better."
The Bulls (5-1) got 19 points from sophomore forward Gus Gilchrist, who had three of their nine 3-pointers, and junior Jarrid Famous added 16 points and eight rebounds.
Guard Dominique Jones, who averaged 38 minutes in the first five games, scored 10 in 24 minutes, his lightest workload in nearly two years.
All 11 healthy Bulls played at least 10 minutes, and all but one scored against Kent State (4-2).
"A lot of guys came off the bench and played minutes," Gilchrist said. "So it was good thing for our whole team to get game experience."
Among the freshmen coming off the bench, forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, a graduate of King High, had nine points, as many as he had totaled in the first five games.
Guard Jordan Dumars hit a 3-pointer on his first possession for his first points at USF, adding another 3-pointer four minutes later. Guard Shaun Noriega made a 3-pointer, and guard Mike Burwell scored his first points as a Bull.
USF continued to match its best start since 2001-02, and the key Wednesday was a dominant beginning of the game.
"That was men and boys the first 10 minutes," Kent State coach Geno Ford said. "We didn't play with any confidence, and I give them full credit.
"They would have beaten a lot of teams."
USF continues a five-game homestand Friday against Florida Atlantic.
Free tickets for kids: The Bulls announced all children of high school age or younger can now get in free to all men's and women's basketball games. USF said the promotion is designed to reach out to families in Tampa with the hopes of making games more of a family experience at a reasonable cost. The tickets must be purchased on game day.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3346. View his blog at blogs.sptimes.com/usf.