USF 73, FIU 56: Brian Swift and Jimmy Baxter get back in synch at the expense of the Panthers.
TAMPA - "No! Attack!"
South Florida point guard Brian Swift upbraided teammate Jimmy Baxter when Baxter momentarily looked to pass the ball out from the wing.
So Baxter reconsidered, attacked and scored.
He quickly scored again. And USF kept scoring, and Florida International kept missing.
Swift's rebuke ignited a 22-0 first-half run and the Bulls cruised to a 73-56 victory before 2,723 Saturday at the Sun Dome, breaking a four-game losing streak.
"He was holding the ball over his head like this, and there was nobody near him," Swift said. "I'm always telling him that, to attack. I was just telling him before the coaches did. We need him to attack."
Baxter's recent scoring slump coincided with USF's four-game skid, during which he averaged 7.5 points and USF (4-4) averaged 57.5. The Bulls' leading returning scorer (14.6 avg.), Baxter had an efficient 13 points vs. FIU, making 6 of 11 shots, and he rustled USF from a lethargic start.
With help from a figurative Swift kick in the backside.
"When you've got your point guard screaming (at you) to drive the ball, you've got no choice," said Baxter, who was scoreless Tuesday at Michigan State. "I tend to catch the ball and stand around. (Swift) basically (took) his left foot and pushed me.
"It's always frustrating when you're not putting the ball in the hole and you're losing at the same time. I just came out and tried to play (aggressively)."
FIU (2-7) also entered with a four-game losing streak, and the Panthers were overmatched on both ends of the floor. USF's Bradley Mosley (14 points) locked down FIU's top scorer, Carlos Morban (20.6 ppg), in the first half, holding him to 1-of-6 shooting before intermission. The Bulls held FIU scoreless for 10 minutes, 11 seconds during the 22-point run to take a 26-9 lead with eight minutes until halftime.
FIU got no closer than 10 the rest of the way, and USF stretched the 40-23 halftime lead to 52-27 early in the second half.
"I thought we did a really good job (on Morban), particularly in the first half," USF coach Robert McCullum said.
USF shot 50.9 percent, the first time this season the Bulls made more than they missed, and received another burst of offense from forward Terrence Leather. Leather scored a career-high 25 at Michigan State and had a team-high 17 Saturday.
"For us to have a chance to beat people, he's going to have to give us 15 a night," McCullum said.
The Bulls also reaped a few of the perks that come with a comfortable win. Freshman center Konimba Diarra scored the first basket of his career, and freshman walk-on Alton Darling, who just became eligible and dressed for the first time, played the final 21/2 minutes.
The Bulls' 18 assists were their most since the season opener, with Swift and Baxter each having four. Gerrick Morris had team highs of nine rebounds and three blocks, and Baxter and Swift had three steals apiece as USF forced 20 turnovers.