South Florida went undefeated last December and looks to match that despite a challenging slate this month, starting with a home matchup Monday night against a talented Furman team that has won seven of its first eight games. The Bulls went 4-0 last December and have six games this month, including difficult tests against Utah State and Florida State before Christmas.
USF finished fourth at the Cayman Islands Classic after beating Loyola Chicago in the first round and dropping contests against New Mexico State (65-45) and Nebraska (74-67) to drop under .500 at 3-4. The Bulls expected to be a tough out this season after bringing back most of a team that won the CBI last spring, but an injury to 2018-19 American Athletic Conference rookie of the year Alexis Yetna in the preseason has severely hampered their inside game and depth. Furman will challenge USF's resolve with an offense that is averaging 10 made 3-pointers and shooting 49.6 percent from the field overall with five players scoring at least 9.5 points per game. The Paladins have won three straight games after edging Texas Arlington 58-57 on Wednesday in North Carolina and their only loss on the season came at Alabama on Nov. 19, when they forced 21 turnovers but shot 30.9 percent from the floor in an 81-73 setback.
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ABOUT FURMAN (7-1): Senior guard Jordan Lyons scored 33 points against Alabama and leads the team at 16.1 per game while junior forward Clay Mounce (14.5 points) tops the team in rebounds (6.1) after recording a double-double versus UT Arlington. Sophomore Noah Gurley (12.8 points) and sophomore guard Mike Bothwell (10.4), who both shoot over 50 percent from the field like Mounce, have also contributed on the offensive end. Junior guard Alex Hunter (9.5 points) entered Sunday's action second in the nation in assist-turnover ratio (5.4) with 27 assists and five miscues.
ABOUT SOUTH FLORIDA (3-4): The Bulls own one of the most experienced and talented guard duos in the AAC in junior David Collins (14.4 points) along with senior Laquincy Rideau (13.3 points), who also leads the team in assists (3.0) and is among the nation's best in steals (3.0). Junior guard Justin Brown (7.9 points) is also a threat, especially from behind the arc where he needs five makes to tie Victor Rudd (117) for 10th-most in program history. Michael Durr, a 7-0 sophomore, had season highs of eight points and 11 rebounds (team-best 6.0 per game) against Nebraska on Wednesday.
1. South Florida sophomore F Rashun Williams had eight points and four rebounds in 12 minutes versus Nebraska.
2. Furman, which was picked third in the Southern Conference preseason poll, made the NIT last season.
3. The series is tied 1-1 and the teams are meeting for the first time since 1980 when the Bulls won 76-48 at home.
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