USF picked up its first conference win of the season Sunday thanks to a second-halfcomeback against the Providence Friars. The comeback was highlighted by a pair of alley-oops thrown by junior guard Hugh Robertson that brought the Sun Dome to life and ignited the Bulls’ (7-12, 1-5) 79-72 win.
“(Plays like that) get the Sun Dome rocking,” said senior forward Jarrid Famous, who was on the receiving end of the first alley-oop.
Seven straight losses and a 12-point half-time deficit set the stage for another disappointing USF loss. But inspired team playingin the second half rewrote the script that Bulls fans had become accustomed to.
“We kept on fighting hard and I knew (a win) would eventually come,” junior forward Augustus Gilchrist said about snapping the losing streak.
The win was South Florida’s first in the Big East, despite trailingby as many as 17 points in the first half.
“Frustration is not an easy thing to handle,” coach Stan Heath said about his team’s struggles. “I give this team a lot of credit – even though we’ve lost some close games, they still come back ready to go for the next one.”
The Bulls gained momentumwith a 16-5 run to start the second half. Point-blank shots that wouldn’t fall in the first startedpouring in as South Florida’s relentless penetration proved too much for the Friars.
“Everybody was in attack mode,” said Robertson, who had a team-high 17 points. “Everybody stayed aggressive and we knew we had to finish the game out.”
The Big East’s second leadingscorer Marshon Brooks had 28 points and played all 40 minutes for the Friars. South Florida’s bench outscored the Friars 23-8 and the Bulls finished the game with five players in double figures.
Heath’s team found itself in familiar circumstances, trailing by four with seven minutes left to play in the game. Proving they could do more than just stay close, the Bulls finished the game with an intensity they had lacked during their seven-game skid.
The ultimate statement of teamwork came with less than three minutes to play. Junior point guard Anthony Crater, who struggled statistically, sacrificed his body by diving for a loose ball, leadingto a head injury that took him out of the game temporarily. From the ground he got the ball to Gilchrist, who dished ahead to Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, for a dunk that put the Bulls up six.
Heath partially credited the second-half spark to a lineup change that featured Fitzpatrick, who finished with 10 points in just 16 minutes of play.
Coach Heath said the team is glad to put the losing streak behind them, but has learned valuable lessons during a tough stretch in its schedule – which ranks as the ninth strongest in the country, according to CollegeRPI.com.
“I think they are learning how hard they need to play for 40 minutes,” Heath said. “They try to turn it on and turn it off – and they know that’s not working.”
USF will use this win as a confidence builder heading into four straight games against unranked opponents. The Bullshope to take this momentum on the road, as they face off against the ScarletKnights of Rutgers on Thursday at 7 p.m.