USF Opens Season With Comfortable Win Over Texas Southern

By Kellan King

The Dons came into tonight’s game against Texas Southern looking to get off to a good start, and begin another NCAA Tournament campaign. The Dons got off to a bit of a slow start, but seven quick points from Zane Meeks gave the Dons an early 13-12 lead. The Dons started to turn it up offensively, at one point making five straight shots and taking a 33-26 lead with just over six minutes to play. 

The Dons started to pick up the defensive intensity at the end of the half, forcing six turnovers that led to fastbreak points. War Memorial Gym erupted after an off the backboard alley oop from Tyrell Roberts to Marcus Williams, giving USF a 48-33 lead with a minute and a half to play in the first half. After Zane Meeks layed it in at the buzzer, the Dons led by 17 going into the locker room. 

The second half got off to a frantic start, with Texas Southern cutting the lead to eight after a Davon Barnes layup. The Tigers continued to chip away, and after a PJ Henry steal and layup the Dons lead was cut to three. USF took notice though, and a thunderous Isaiah Hawthorne dunk capped a 6-0 run to give the Dons a nine point lead. The Dons started to pour it on after a Texas Southern timeout, with Hawthorne, Josh Kunen, and Tyrell Roberts all hitting threes to give USF a 19 point lead. 

Texas Southern kept fighting though, keeping the Dons lead under 20 and making Coach Chris Gerlufsen leave the starters in for longer then he may have liked. USF started to get a little sloppy late in the game, turning the ball over a lot and allowing Texas Southern to cut the lead to 16 with under four to play. The Tigers got hot late, hitting a couple tough shots cutting the lead down to 11, before the Dons closed it out to win 90-77.

Overall, it was a solid effort from USF, shooting lights out from downtown. However, the Dons were sloppy at times, turning it over 23 times, and will have to clean that up if they want to improve. USF will welcome Cal Poly on Thursday for their 2nd game of the year.

After the game I spoke with Marcus Williams, Tyrell Roberts, and Head Coach Chris Gerlufsen

Kellan King: For both you guys it’s your third school in your college careers, how does the USF experience compare to the other two schools?

Marcus Williams: For me, it’s kinda like A&M just more diverse. But from a community and students interacting standpoint, it’s similar, it’s very involved. Everyone likes to get out and meet new people, so I like that.

Tyrell Roberts: For me it’s very like involved relationship based with the players and the coaches, and different places I’ve been. I’ve never been in a situation quite like this where the bonds are so close with the Coaches and the players, there’s no like coach player, we’re just here. Of course we listen to them and they tell us what to do, but they understand us and know us and a lot of coaches don’t take the time to do that.

Kellan King: Both of you guys were really attacking the basket, being aggressive, what do you think gave you the freedom to do that?

Both: CG, you know, coach

Marcus Williams: They put their faith in you and rest on you.

Kellan King: Coach, you mentioned Isaiah Hawthorne had a big impact off the bench. Was that unexpected, what did you see from him?

Coach Gerlufsen: No, I spent a lot of time with him in the locker room after the game just kinda patting him on the back because you know a guy who’s basically sat for three years, basically bided his time and hasn’t had a bad attitude, has just stayed with it. It’s amazing when guys just stay the course, sometimes what can happen, and I’m just super proud of him. He’s a soft spoken kid and I’m just super proud he had a moment like that, and I’m not surprised at all. I want more from him, we’re going to urge him to keep coming and not be satisfied with that, cause he’s a guy who can really impact the game.

Kellan King: Coach you mentioned the bench had a big game today, outsourcing your starters. That’s obviously a good thing, but do you think that could turn into a problem almost having too many mouths to feed?

Chris Gerlufsen: I sure hope not, you know when you can score 90 point, I think we have to embrace the fact that on any given night it could be someone else. If we can really do that, I think we become scary from a matchup standpoint because we do have a lot of depth and a lot of different combinations we can play.

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