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ORLANDO - It was hard to believe that USF point guard Anthony Collins was carried off the court on a stretcher and forward Victor Rudd suffered a concussion in their previous game.
The duo looked perfectly healthy, each with a double-double performance, four days after their injuries in the Bulls' 65-56 win over UCF in Orlando on Wednesday night.
"Without those two guys I don't know what would have happened," remarked USF head coach Stan Heath. "For me, it was a little unsettling not knowing who was going to be in that lineup, especially if that little guy (Collins) is not in there."
Rudd, who shook off a first half elbow injury, had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Collins scored 16 with 10 assists. Jawanza Poland led the Bulls with 18 points.
The win for the Bulls avenged a 74-56 opening night loss to the Knights. The Bulls finished their non-conference schedule 9-3, an improvement over last season when USF went 7-6 and made the NCAA Tournament.
The matchup was a classic game of runs. UCF utilized a 15-point scamper to take the advantage in the first half, leading 27-19.
The Bulls would finish the half on a 9-0 run behind back-to-back threes by Musa Abdul-Aleem and a buzzer beating three by Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. USF lead 28-27 at halftime.
USF carried the momentum into the second half, going on a 21-10 run and building a 13-point lead with 13 minutes remaining.
Clanton outmuscled the Bulls down low, putting up a double-double of his own with 18 points and 14 rebounds. The Knights went on a 17-6 run to cut the deficit to two. A Sykes free throw would tie the game with 2:29 to play, but that was a close as the Knights would get.
The Bulls' strong free throw shooting helped them close out the victory. USF went 8-8 from the line, six from Collins, in the final minute.
The Bulls continued to take care of the basketball, committing just 6 turnovers.
South Florida's defense stifled the UCF perimeter shooters, who went 4-22 from beyond the arc.
The Bulls and UCF tied in the rebounding column with 35 boards apiece. USF had a slight edge in offense rebounds 9-8. This was a far different outcome than the season opener Nov. 10 - when UCF won the rebounding battle 45-27
USF will start conference play on Sunday against No. 7 Syracuse at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa at 2:00 PM.
Nick Gryniewicz is a student broadcaster at the University of South Florida and writes for Runningthebulls.com - you can follow him on twitter @nickgryniewicz