The ingredients were there.
The No. 6 team in the country came into a relatively packed Sun Dome sluggish and flat. The game began in similar fashion to the Nov. 28 football game USF played against a Top-10 Louisville team. An upstart Bulls squad took and held a lead throughout the game.It could have been fate. It could have been the greatest upset in USF basketball history.
But the men’s basketball team didn’t know the recipe. The Bulls just did it the only way they know how.
Score: USF 11-9. Time: First half, 8:03 remaining.
The Bulls took advantage of a sleepy Wildcats team – this was not the No. 6 Villanova Wildcats.
“We knew we could play with them. We can play with anybody, it wasn’t a surprise,” junior guard Melvin Buckle said.
Score: USF 21-18. Halftime. 20 minutes to go.
This wasn’t basketball. It was a block party, with hosts senior center Solomon Jones and junior forward McHugh Mattis.
“It was fun playing defense,” Jones said. “Locking people up, stopping the No. 6 team in the country.”
The Bulls combined for eight blocks in the first half and made the Wildcats shoot and look like an intramural squad of art history majors. Villanova looked like a tired team, a team that had something funny for dinner, a team needing to wake up.Score: USF 23-21. Time: 18:55 left.
If the Wildcats needed a wake-up call, they got it from the Bulls’ fans. A group of painted patrons sporting a giant brick chanted “overrated.” This chant was repeated right after the Bulls’ leading scorer James Holmes went out of the game with his fourth foul.
Score: USF 35-34. Time: 9:09.
With the Bulls and Wildcats trading baskets, guard Chris Capko was knocked out of bounds and what looked to be a pen flew out of the stands and onto the court – a sign of things to come.
Score: USF 45-38. Time: 5:58.
Holmes nailed a three-pointer on a fast break.
“Oh man, the crowd was going wild and starting to feel like we had it, like we finally had one we could pull off,” Holmes said.
The crowd was crazy, and record books were ready to be rewritten.
“We knew going in that we could play with them. Maybe it took them a while to finally realize that we could,” Capko said.
Score: Villanova 46-45. Time 4:47.
Turnovers flew. Players look ed dejected. Coach Robert McCullum put his head in his hand and stared at the floor.
“(There were) some plays that we just relaxed,” Jones said. “We just relaxed and thought that, ‘We’ve got a lead, (and) they’re just going to give up.'”
Memories of close losses were all fresh on the players’ minds.
“You see it happen time and time again, knowing they basically handed us a win,” Holmes said.
Score: Villanova 48-46. Time: 1:45 left.
A hopeful announcement came from the Athletic Department, asking fans not to rush the court.
“We didn’t quit when they got up, just kept fighting, so we felt good about ourselves,” Capko said.
Score: Villanova 48-46. Time :05 left.
After a Holmes missed three-pointer, Wildcats guard Randy Foye was fouled, and before he got to shoot his first free throw, a T-shirt flew on the court from the stands. The crowd that was wild earlier almost earns a technical foul. The upset wasn’t made just right.Three seconds left. Two. One.
Score: Villanova 49-46.
“I think we really played good tonight,” Jones said. “I mean, I wanted to win, I definitely wanted to win. It’s tough.”Hit the showers.
“I love to win,” McCullum said. “But I hate the taste in your mouth when you lose.”Rinse.
“It’s frustrating. It’s starting to mount,” Capko said. “We’ve played six games; that’s five we should of won or had a chance to win, or had every opportunity to win.”Repeat.