USF Begins AAC Play

With the calendar switching over to 2015, USF Men’s Basketball (6-7) sets to begin the second portion of their season as they begin AAC conference play on Wednesday afternoon with a showdown at NCAA tournament hopeful SMU (9-3).

The non-conference slate of games was up and down for Orlando Antigua’s squad, which was to be expected from the second youngest team in the entire nation. The Bulls initially jumped out the gate fast, starting the season at 5-1 with close victories over UAB, Hofstra, and Jacksonville, with their sole loss coming on the road in a close, competitive contest against ACC mainstay NC State. However, the team fell into a rough patch once December began, losing six of their next seven contests, including being blown out at home to former Big East conference mate Seton Hall and a thirteen point loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl classic.

The team has been led by team veterans Chris Perry, Corey Allen Jr., and Anthony Collins, the only three players remaining on the roster from the previous season. Perry has recorded three double-doubles on the season and has proved a force inside, averaging 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Anthony Collins, the last person in the program left over from the 2012 NCAA Tournament team, has provided much needed veteran leadership through the first thirteen contests. Benefiting from Antigua’s aggressive, up tempo style of offense, Allen Jr. leads the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game, attacking the rim with reckless abandon and a knack for taking matters into his own hands when needed in the final minutes of games. Meanwhile, newcomers such as Nehemias Morillo, Ruben Guerrero, and Bo Zeigler have supplied sparks of hustle, energy, and effort, giving indication of what Antigua is attempting to build moving forward.

In comparison, last year’s team fared better in non-conference play, going 9-4 heading into the New Year. However, Stan Heath’s team imploded down the stretch in AAC play, ultimately leading to his dismissal after seven seasons. Perhaps the fortunes of this young, competitive USF team will be different. Antigua spoke of the prospects of conference play after their matchup with Bowling Green. “We still have a lot of work (to do). We have a chance to start a new season with conference play at 0-0, but we’re focusing in on us and how we can improve. How do we give ourselves the best chance to compete every night, so that we can win?” The Bulls follow up their Wednesday conference opener with back to back home games against East Carolina and defending National Champion Uconn.

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