USF 85, USM 73
Three seniors stepped up when they needed to the most — on senior night — against Charlotte, the No. 18 team in the country.
Led by Terrence Leather, Brian Swift and Marlyn Bryant, the USF men’s basketball team shocked the 49ers, 85-73, on Saturday, making men’s basketball program history for the first time in more than a decade.
It was the Bulls’ first win over a team with a winning record all season and the first time in 13 years the team had a home-win over an Associated Press-ranked team. The last time was an 81-76 win over No. 15 Tulane on Feb. 24, 1992. Twice in that span they defeated teams ranked in the coaches poll.
“This was by far the biggest win in my career,” said Swift, who scored 19 points and dished out six assists. “To beat them on our home floor on our last home game — it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Swift’s fellow senior, Leather, scored a game-high 24 points and had 12 rebounds, while Bryant also had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“We just wanted to set the tone offensively and defensively,” Bryant said. “That was the key to us coming out with the victory.”
USF(12-15, 5-11 C-USA) also had key contributions from several underclassmen and from the bench.
Forward Marius Prekevicius scored 11 points before fouling out with three minutes to go. Junior guard James Holmes and junior center Solomon Jones added eight and seven points, respectively.
“This was a total team effort,” Leather said. “Everyone stepped up and made huge contributions to the game. It feels great.”
Sharp-shooting guard Brendan Plavich hit six 3-pointers in route to a team-high 20 points. The 49ers (21-6, 12-4 C-USA) leading scorer Curtis Withers added 19 points.
The Bulls used a 10-0 spurt halfway through the first half to build a 41-28 halftime lead. USF’s fourth senior, Brandon Brigman, went down with an apparent leg injury five minutes into the game. Despite the loss of Brigman, the Bulls were able to dominate the 49ers on second chance points, 25-9.
After the game and a two-minute wait, security allowed Bulls’ fans to rush the court, as the team returned from the locker room to join the celebration. Swift, with the biggest smile on his face all season, was carried around the court by cheering fans.
“This is what I had in mind all year with our fans,” Swift said. “I’m glad it finally happened for us.”
The Bulls will head into this week’s Conference USA tournament as the No. 11 seed and will take on sixth-seeded Houston this Wednesday in Memphis. USF lost at home to Houston three weeks ago, 68-50.
USF will enter the Conference USA tournament as huge underdogs, but will have one thing in their favor: They will be entering off of their biggest win in 13 years.