TAMPA — For the first time in nearly two years, USF is above .500.
The Bulls compensated for their turnover propensity with interior dominance in an 84-73 season-opening triumph against Florida A&M on Friday night before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 3,106. USF, which lost its first four games last season, has a winning record for the first time since Dec. 18, 2014.
Playing without suspended point guard Jahmal McMurray, USF struggled against FAMU's pressure in the second half and finished with 16 turnovers. Moreover, promising newcomer Tulio Da Silva (nine points, nine rebounds) and veteran forward Bo Zeigler (15 points) fouled out as the Bulls and Rattlers each collected 23 fouls.
"I think we got a little sloppy and you've got to give Florida A&M credit," said Bulls coach Orlando Antigua, who watched FAMU pull within five midway through the second half. "They were trying to scrap, trying to get back, and it's something that we were preparing for. We just didn't handle it really particularly well in the second half."
But USF finished with a 47-32 rebounding advantage, getting a double-double from 7-foot junior Ruben Guerrero (13 points, 16 rebounds). The Bulls also hit five of their last six free throws as both teams found themselves in the double-bonus down the stretch.
"Certainly (Guerrero) has been working extremely hard, and it's what we expect from Ruben as well," Antigua said. "He had 16 rebounds, and I'm screaming and yelling at him because I thought he could've had about 20 rebounds."
Penn State transfer Geno Thorpe led the Bulls with 19 points in his USF debut. Former Berkeley Prep standout Craig Bowman scored 20 for the Rattlers.