Bulls freshman Jordan Omogbehin may have received the loudest ovation in Saturday night's 68-50 win over Loyola-Chicago, with the 7-foot-3 Nigerian and fan favorite getting his name chanted after diving on the floor for a loose ball in the final minutes.
But it was another fresh face on USF's new-look frontcourt, senior Kore White, who stole the show. White, a transfer from Florida Atlantic, came off the bench to score 10 of his team-high 15 in a late first-half run that helped the Bulls pull away in front of 4,014 at the Sun Dome.
White, a 6-foot-8, 241-pound graduate student, showed his versatility, going 3-for-3 from 3-point range while making strong moves inside, including two big dunks.
"I was glad to see him have that type of game," coach Stan Heath said. "He hasn't played great, he's been trying to feel his way out, he's been a little bit of an enigma. But (Saturday) hopefully was his coming-out party and he'll play with confidence."
With the loss of forwards Ron Anderson and Augustus Gilchrist to graduation, the Bulls need White to help provide a veteran presence down low. And on Saturday, with two of the team's top scorers, junior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and senior Jawanza Poland, combining for 10 points, White delivered a lift, including some strong post defense.
"I thought, coming off the bench, I came out right and ready," White said. "I think for me, once I hit the first shot, it gave me a lot of confidence to just keep playing."
Heath was pleased with his team overall, especially its effort and intensity on the defensive end. "I think it's the hardest we've played," said junior Victor Rudd, who had 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
The Bulls (2-1) ended the first half on a 26-11 run, with sophomore guard Anthony Collins and White the catalysts, combining for 11 straight. Collins finished with 11 points and six assists.
"He's one of the most patient guards with the ball that I've seen off ball screens in a long time," Loyola coach Porter Moser said. "He's really good."
The Bulls will wrap up the USF Invitational today at 3 in hosting Western Michigan, which has also won both games in the tournament.
"It's almost a championship format," Heath said. "And we want to treat it that way."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.