TAMPA — South Florida opened the home portion of the American Conference schedule Saturday afternoon and came away with a resounding 75-60 victory over UConn.
The victory, before an announced crowd of 4,694 at the Yuengling Center, was USF’s fourth all-time against the Huskies. UConn had won 22 of the first 25 meetings.
The Bulls rebounded from an 82-64 loss at SMU on New Year’s Day to even their conference mark at 1-1. They had lost three of their previous four games overall.
“In our program we talk about responding all the time,” said USF coach Brian Gregory. “Obviously, our guys had a great response today against a very good, well-coached, hard-playing team.”
Laquincy Rideau led the way with a game-high 17 points and his six assists also topped the score sheet. He added eight rebounds during an all-around performance.
“Coming off the SMU game, where we played with no competitiveness and no grit, we took that as motivation and played hard this game,” said Rideau.
After a slow start resulted in falling behind 6-0, USF began to pull away late in the first half. Justin Brown’s two free throws capped a 10-0 run to give the Bulls a 37-27 lead with 1:28 remaining. They took a 39-32 lead into the break and shot 50 percent (16-of-32) the first 20 minutes.
The Bulls (8-7/1-1 American) were in command throughout the second half when they spent all but the first 90 seconds leading by at least 10 points. They went on a 17-6 run to build a 61-42 advantage on Rashun Williams’ three-pointer with 10:12 remaining.
“When we were up by about 12 of 13 in the second half, we told the guys that you extend that lead by getting defensive stops,” said Gregory, whose team had 11 steals. “That’s how we were able to extend it.”
Two free throws by Xavier Castaneda with 3:34 left in the game gave USF its biggest lead at 74-54.
David Collins had 15 points, four steals, four assists and a pair of blocks.
“When David Collins and Laquincy Rideau command a game the way those two guys did, it just makes the game easier for everybody else,” said Gregory. “I was really pleased with those two guys and I think everybody made some big plays for us throughout the whole game.”
The Bulls are at ECU on Tuesday night and return home to play No. 9 Memphis next Sunday at 4 p.m.