TAMPA — Three nights after USF’s one-point season-opening victory against FAU, the final droplets of euphoria from that emotional triumph evaporated.
So did any delusions about Bulls basketball being a quick fix under new coach Brian Gregory.
Morgan State, a MEAC team coming off a 14-16 season, used a 13-point run early in the second half to pull away for a 63-53 victory Monday night before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,116.
More humiliating for the Bulls: Morgan State all-conference guard Tiwian Kendley — who averaged 21 points last season — didn’t play for unspecified reasons.
The Bears ended the first half with a 15-4 surge, holding USF to a pair of field goals in the final 6:25, for a 32-26 lead. Freshman Justin Brown’s 3-pointer was USF’s only perimeter basket in the first half.
The Bulls got a 3-pointer from graduate transfer Terrence Samuel (13 points, seven rebounds) and a short jumper from Tulio Da Silva to cut their deficit to one to open the second, but center Nikola Scekic was whistled for a technical foul after committing a foul under the basket.
Morgan State converted all four free throws then followed with a trey to spark a 13-0 run.
GATORS ROMP IN OPENER: Egor Koulechov scored 34, hitting six 3-pointers in his Florida debut, to lead the eighth-ranked Gators to a 116-74 victory over visiting Gardner-Webb in the team’s season opener.
Koulechov, a graduate transfer from Rice, broke the school record for points in a debut. Tom Baxley held the mark with 32 points against Rick Barry and Miami in 1962. Florida ended up losing that game after Baxley fouled out in overtime.
Koulechov and the Gators had no issues against Gardner-Webb (0-2). Koulechov added five rebounds and five assists.
Florida hit 10 3-pointers in the first half, five by Koulechov. He sank consecutive 3s from the corner to put the Gators up 34-19 early. The newcomer nicknamed "Three-gor" had 23 points at the break.
Koulechov is a key addition in coach Mike White’s third season, one that began with high expectations after the Gators finished one victory short of making the Final Four in March.
Koulechov, KeVaughn Allen, senior Chris Chiozza and Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson give the Gators their deepest backcourt in years — and enough outside shooting to make them a threat every game.
AP POLL: Duke is No. 1 in the first regular-season poll of 2017-18. Florida is No. 8.
OBITUARY: Former Old Dominion and Fayetteville State coach Jeff Capel Jr. died in Fayetteville, N.C., less than two years after being diagnosed with ALS. He was 64. Mr. Capel was diagnosed with ALS in the spring of 2016 by doctors at Duke University. His son — Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel III — revealed the diagnosis in a first-person story written in January for the Players Tribune.
NO. 4 S.C. 94, NO. 15 MARYLAND 86: A’ja Wilson had a career-high 32 points and 12 rebounds, and defending NCAA champion South Carolina withstood a late charge by the host Terps. The Gamecocks (2-0) let a 26-point lead dwindle to 87-84 before Tyasha Harris made a three-point play with 23 seconds left to clinch it. South Carolina has only two returning starters from last season’s squad, but one is Wilson, who had 18 points by halftime and finished with her 32nd career double double.
AP POLL: USF moved up one spot to No. 22 and FSU one spot to No. 17. UConn remained a unanimous No. 1.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.