TAMPA -- Newcomer Yunio Barrueta had the look of a competitor on his face. First-year Buccaneers coach Butch Estes had the voice of a competitor in his sound bites. Senior returner Magne Fivelstad wore the competitive fire on his sleeve.
This Barry University men's basketball team may have dropped an exhibition to NCAA Division I South Florida Monday night at the Sun Dome, 88-53, but there is a lot of potential for this newly-assembled team. A team that stood toe-to-toe with the Bulls in the first half.
"For about 25 minutes, I'd say we really competed hard," first-year coach Barry assistant coach Justin Furr said. "I was encouraged, for our first time out, I thought our kids stayed together. They showed signs of being tough."
The Buccaneers were dealt with a stiff test in battling the size, physicality and athleticism of the Bulls in a game where ticky-tack fouls had no place in the officials' minds. It's something college basketball will have to get used to, though, as officials and basketball administrators are trying to clean up the game. In this one, there were 59 fouls called -- 37 of them which went against the Bucs.
"I like the new rules," Furr said. "I like the more open, free style of basketball. We've got to, as a team, learn how to adjust to that when the game's called that way."
South Florida attempted 58 free throws, converting 39 for 67.2 percent. Barry shot 20 free throws, knocking down 13 for 65 percent.
The Bucs hung with the Bulls throughout the first half, offsetting 12 first half points by Victor Rudd, six of which came at the free throw line, with eight points from Barrueta and seven from Savad Garner. who combined to go 5 of 8 from the floor before the break.
"Yunio and Savad really competed," Furr said. "I don't like to single guys out, but those guys really competed hard, and showed a lot of fight. They both got into foul trouble, but competed hard and did good things."
After Rudd, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, split a pair from the free throw line to give the Bulls a four-point lead, Barrueta buried his second three-pointer of the half to pull the Bucs within one. South Florida extended its lead to six on a dunk by John Egbunu, and increased it to nine, 22-13, on a free throw by Corey Allen. Barry's Arie Williams, a freshman from Chicago, canned one of his two triples to cut it to seven, and fellow rookie Alvaro Simoza knocked down a three from the top of the key as Barry sliced the Bulls' lead to four, 25-21, with 5:08 to play in the half.
Following two Brock Martino free throws to put the Bulls ahead by six, Garner got free one of Deric Hill's four floor-leading first-half assists to cut it to 27-23 with 3:46 to play before the intermission. The Bucs had a last-second shot opportunity, but did not convert before the first-half buzzer, and South Florida took an eight-point lead into the break.
Barry hit eight of 30 field goals in the opening half. South Florida converted seven of 28. The Bulls were 21 of 26 from the free throw line in the opening half.
The Bulls widened their lead to 41-29 on a dunk by Egbunu 3:31 into the second half, but Bucs freshman Adrian Gonzalez, who finished off the game with a dunk in transition after Williams pick-pocketed Allen inside the last minute, scored on a layup to cut the gap to 10. Brock Martin hit a three as the Bulls bumped the lead to 13, but Barrueta scored on a layup and Barry senior Garrett Naughton sank a free throw at the 14:15 mark to keep Barry within 44-34.
Fivelstad sank a pair of free throws and scored on a lay-in with 11:45 remaining with the Bulls leading by 13. But South Florida extended their arms into the Bucs' passing lanes, and used their athleticism to get out into transition during a stretch in the second half when the game turned from a foul fest into a little bit of a track meet before the Bulls were able to run away with it.
Barrueta finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and a block. Fivelstad and Williams each had eight points, and Garner seven points, six boards and a steal. Martin matched Rudd with 15 points, and pulled down nine rebounds for the Bulls, who had six guys reach double figures in scoring.
"This trip was a great experience for our team," Furr said. "We can definitely learn some things from this game, but now we turn our focus to the first game of the season."
Barry opens the regular season Friday against North Miami cross-town rival Johnson & Wales in the Wildcat Center at 7 p.m.
"It's going to be a real test for us because it's a road game in a heated environment in an inner-city rivalry game," Furr said. "Our guys are going to have come in ready to compete hard for 40 minutes. We're going to have to come in with a road warrior mentality."