South Florida takes aim at 2-0 against winless URI


South Florida will turn to its quality depth when it opens play in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament against Rhode Island on Saturday at Uncasville, Conn.

Virginia Tech and No. 3 Villanova will square off in the nightcap of the four-team Naismith Bracket.

USF coach Brian Gregory brought in a solid recruiting class, and highly touted true freshman guard Caleb Murphy showed he belonged on the court Wednesday in team’s opener, a 94-84 home win over NAIA foe Florida College.

Murphy, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Loganville, Ga., slotted into the starting lineup and made his collegiate debut in the absence of Xavier Castaneda (groin) against the Falcons.

The four-star prospect tallied five points, four rebounds and seven assists in 24 minutes of action.

“He’s going to be thrown into the wolves at times,” said Gregory, who is 16-1 in season openers. “He’s no different than a lot of other freshmen, but the good thing for us is that we’ll have veterans around him.”

Rhode Island (0-2) is off to a tough start in coach David Cox’s third season, and the Rams didn’t help themselves much on offense Thursday as they lost to Boston College 69-64 in the 2K Empire Classic.

The Eagles used a 10-1 run midway through the second half to erase a 48-42 Rhode Island lead. Then the Rams went on to lose for the second time in two nights — having fallen 94-88 to No. 18 Arizona State on Wednesday.

It was the second consecutive season the Rams — an Atlantic 10 Conference standout — have played two straight games against Power Five schools. Their second and third games last year were a defeat at Maryland and a win over Alabama.

Rhode Island struggled to find its touch shooting against Boston College — the Rams canned just three of 18 attempted 3-pointers — but guard Fatts Russell turned in his usual steady game with 23 points.

The 5-foot-10 Russell was named to the Naismith Trophy Player of the Year watch list earlier in November and is coming off an outstanding junior campaign.

The Philadelphia native averaged 18.8 points per game and was second in the nation in steals (2.87 per game) in 2019-20.

“He’s our best player. He’s our leader,” Cox said after Russell fouled out in the loss to the Sun Devils. “In a close game, it’s hard to play without your best player and your senior leader.”

–Field Level Media

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