Gilchrist, Famous Add New Dimension for Bulls

Junior guard Dominique Jones is still Stan Heath's go-to guy, but the inside presence of Gus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous is already making an impact for the Bulls. In a key non-conference win against Virginia on Monday night at the Sun Dome, the duo showed that they are capable of big things on both ends of the floor.

Yes, Virginia, there is life in the Sun Dome.

Make no mistake; Monday's 66-49 win was a big one. OK, so the Cavaliers were without some key frontcourt players. And, yes, even with those guys in the lineup, UVa isn't likely to finish in the top half of the Atlantic Coast Conference. But the Bulls moved to 2-0 in what could ultimately prove to be a defining stretch for them.

Let's be honest – even though this does not look like the same USF team we've watched struggle through recent years, wins in the Big East will still be very hard to come by. That means if the Bulls are going to live their dream of reaching the post-season – any kind of post-season – for the first time since the 2002 NIT, they're going to have to pile up victories during the 12 non-league games leading up to the conference meat grinder.

SMU and Virginia are a fine start, and there is the opportunity for plenty more because of Gus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous. All-American candidate Dominique Jones is still the team's go-to performer, but the emergence of Gilchrist and Famous is what could potentially make this a special season.

Against Virginia, the duo was dominant. They combined for 30 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots. They gave USF a two-headed presence in the paint that hasn't been there in a long time – if ever. And watching the two communicate on the floor and joke around like best buddies as they waited for their chance at the post-game interview podium, it's clear there is some serious chemistry developing.

"I saw it a lot this game. It's been working in practice, but it really showed during the game tonight," Famous said. "I'm feeling comfortable now. I got the first game out of my system, played my second game. I'm ready to roll. I'm into it now."

"It's great to have another big man alongside me," Gilchrist added. "We know how to pass and how to work out of the double teams. It helps defensively, too, because we can both block shots and get rebounds. It's going to be a great tandem."

On Monday night, it was the tandem that got things started. Virginia came out of the locker room playing stifling defense, determined to keep the Bulls from running in transition. That left it up to Gilchrist and Famous to get the offense going – and they delivered enough to keep the Cavs from building a commanding early lead.

Gilchrist got USF's first two points by rebounding a Jones miss and making a pair of free throws. Famous followed with a baseline runner. Gilchrist then made a nice pass out of a double team to Famous for an easy basket and a foul. The two hooked up again just after halftime, with Famous feeding Gilchrist this time for a three-point play that stretched the Bulls lead to double digits (37-27).

"We had really good balance. These two guys next to me – both Gus and Jarrid – really commanded the paint with scoring and rebounding," head coach Stan Heath said. "It's a different team. Adding Jarrid has been a huge addition for us. Gus Gilchrist - it's almost like adding another Gus Gilchrist this year because he's certainly much improved from last season and is healthier.

"I certainly didn't expect maybe that margin (of victory), but that's what we need to do. We need to be a really good defensive team. We need to work offensively and execute. For our team, especially early in the year, to see that happen is really good. Gus faced a double team - probably the first time he's faced that. Early on he struggled with it, but later he made some great plays out of it. I thought once we were able to handle that situation, it opens things up for the other guys."

The "other guys" on Monday night were Jones (game-high 22 points) and reserve guard Justin Leemow, who played 28 minutes and made all three of his three-point attempts – at key times. The first drew USF within a point at 14-13. The second stretched USF's lead to a seemingly insurmountable 45-30. The third ended a 7-2 Virginia run that had cut the Bulls' lead to 10 (53-43) with eight minutes to play.

"We do look like we have some veteran guys. We managed the game a lot better. We share the ball and we help each other defensively," Heath added. "You can just see it's more of a team. We're still a work in progress. We have things we need to get better at, but I like where we are."

"This is a big win for us because it's against the ACC. The Big East and the ACC are the best in America, so when we can get a big win against a team from the ACC, it just builds our confidence," Gilchrist said. "Maybe it tells people that we have a chance to do better things than we have in the past."

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