Freshmen key USF's victory

Published November 18, 2006

TAMPA - When Robert McCullum picked up late commitments from Adamu "Amu" Saaka and Solomon Bozeman in the summer, it was moments such as this he envisioned.

With 3:57 left and USF up 70-60 on South Carolina State, Bozeman took an outlet pass, led a three-on-one break and passed to Saaka on the low block for an easy basket.

"We're as close as two peas in a pod," Saaka said.

Thanks in large part to the play of those peas, USF is cruising.

The Bulls beat South Carolina State 82-69 Friday to improve to 2-0 for the second straight season. And though senior McHugh Mattis notched his eighth career double double, the topic of discussion was two freshmen who were not supposed to play for USF.

Their stats Friday weren't eye-popping, but the fluidity with which the two played was. Saaka, a guard/forward who first committed to Furman, displayed a nice midrange jumper while scoring 12 off the bench. Bozeman, a point guard who first committed to Ole Miss, saw significant action in the second half and finished with nine assists.

In quantifiable terms, Mattis was the star with 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. But after the game, he pointed out the contributions of the freshmen, which he said helped him shake off a disappointing performance in the season-opening win over Buffalo.

"We've got some good freshmen," said Mattis, who had 11 points and two rebounds against Buffalo. "It kind of made it a little easier."

USF struggled for much of the first half, allowing the Bulldogs 0-2 eight offensive rebounds and six 3-pointers. But the Bulls went on an 11-2 run to end the half and a 17-8 run in the first eight minutes of the second for a 54-44 lead.

Bozeman had seven assists during the second half, including the late feed to Saaka.

"Not only are they good players," McCullum said, "they want to be here."

Dave Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1407.