TAMPA - Stan Heath's first game as University of South Florida basketball coach was a success, albeit in an exhibition.
The Bulls used their considerable size and speed advantage to surge past Division II Saint Leo 99-70 Wednesday night at the Sun Dome, out-rebounding the much smaller Lions 39-18 and forcing 21 turnovers.
Heath was looking for an up-tempo performance from the Bulls, and they didn't disappoint, stepping in front of several Lions passes for easy fast-break points, pushing a majority of their defensive rebounds up the floor quickly and occasionally playing full-court defense.
Freshman Dominique Jones had a game-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, while point guard Chris Howard had 18 points and center Kentrell Gransberry added 11 points and seven rebounds in only 19 minutes.
'We ran the floor, I'd say about 70 percent of the time. I still think we've got to have longer stretches of fast play,' Heath said. 'I still think that we've got to be a team that gets a lot of our offense from our defense, which we did at times.'
USF never trailed following a 14-0 first-half run that erased an early 13-10 lead for Saint Leo. Jones had seven points in that stretch. All five starters - Jones, Howard, Gransberry, Solomon Bozeman and Jesus Verdejo - had baskets in the first five minutes.
Overall, the Bulls shot 60.3 percent from the field and had 10 different players with at least one field goal, nine in the first half.
'We got exposed in the physical nature of the game,' said Saint Leo coach Mike Madagan, a former USF assistant. 'They were definitely bigger, stronger guys.'
Heath was concerned about his squad's defense against the 3-pointer, as the Lions made 10 of 23 from behind the arc, seven for Division-I transfer Dusty Driggs in his first game with Saint Leo.
But overall, Heath was pleased with the play of his freshmen, Jones, Dante Curry (15 points) and Orane Chin, who came off the bench to score seven points. Heath had originally planned to start Chin instead of Bozeman at guard, but made a late change. Chin's still expected to start in the Nov. 9 season opener against Cleveland State.
Jordan Prais and Kyle Rowland each had 11 points for Saint Leo, who will play at UCF in another exhibition game Saturday.
Echefu Leads FSU To Exhibition Win
TALLAHASSEE - Junior Uche Echefu scored a team-high 16 points to lead four Seminoles in double figures as the Florida State men's basketball team opened its two-game exhibition season with a 79-58 victory against West Florida at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
In addition to Echefu's 16 points and five rebounds, guards Toney Douglas (11 points and four assists), Jason Rich (11 points and two steals) and Isaiah Swann (10 points and five rebounds) combined for 32 points on 7-of-16 shooting from 3-point range. Junior Casaan Breeden scored nine points, and freshman Julian Vaughn also scored nine and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds in his first game as a Seminole.
West Florida was led by Max Hoggard (16 points in 11 minutes) and Charles Bouie (13 points and eight rebounds). The visiting Argonauts were limited to 37.5 percent shooting from the field and were outrebounded 40-29 by the bigger, stronger Seminoles.
Senior Ralph Mims had three steals to lead the Seminoles, who finished the game with 11 steals.
The Seminoles host Valdosta State in their second exhibition game Tuesday at 7 p.m. before opening their regular season against Nicholls State on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.