For the USF men’s basketball team, Friday’s win over No. 24 Seton Hall was a long time coming. Finally, the Bulls knocked off a ranked team in a quality win.
Time after time, the Bulls wouldplay well against a difficult opponent for 32 minutes. And timeafter time, the Bulls couldn’t finish the job. This season, poor secondhalves have caused losses toOld Dominion, Auburn, SouthernMississippi and No. 9 Connecticut.
After a series of frustratinglosses, the Bulls finally finished a game in their 56-55 upset victory,setting themselves up well forthe remainder of the season.
“We wanted to get them,” coach Stan Heath said. “It’s something that we need to do because we want to have a good year.”
The win was the first for the Bulls over a ranked team since their 72-64 victory overNo. 10 Georgetown in 2010. After that win, the Bulls went 5-4 theremainder of the season, despitea difficult closing schedule.
The question for the Bulls now is: What will they do from here? With a 10-8 record and animpressive 9-1 record at home,USF is in the perfect position to post its best season since joining the vaunted Big East.
“They’re a good basketball team, they really are,” said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard after the game. “I think they’re a top-tier team in the Big East, especially at home. Their size will really bothera lot of teams.”
For the remainder of theseason, the Bulls play three moreranked teams on the road – Georgetown, Marquette, andLouisville.
Though all three will be tough tests and the Bulls have not yet shown an ability to win on the road with consistency, the way that USF beat the Pirates on Friday could be a building block for momentum.
USF ended the game on a14-3 run, turning a latedouble-digit deficit into a famous victory. The manner in which the Bulls won the game could be key as the season progresses.
“I had no idea we ended iton a 14-3 run,” forward RonAndersonJr. said. “We were justkind of making plays. Wedidn’t quit.”
For the Bulls to keep winning close games against Big Eastopponents, they will have tokeep that mindset of playinghard and not quitting.
USF leads the Big East during conference play in both defense,allowing just 59.4 points per game, and in free-throw shooting, making 78.6 percent from the line.
If the Bulls can continue toplay tough defense and make their free throws late in games, thanks to the momentum and confidence from their upset victory, theycould turn this season from one with a few surprise victories to one that ends with a postseason bid.