Things started off fine for the USF men’s basketball team Wednesday night against Providence.
Fans were getting loud for a Bulls team that was draining everything from fade-away jumpers to alley-oops and deep threes.
Those fans didn’t know what was in store for them.
With a six-game losing streak hovering over USF, many were surprised to see a turnaround after a stunning first half for the Bulls (10-13,1-11).
What was more surprising after witnessing the early performance was the 76-66 loss that handed to the Bulls by the Friars (13-11,5-7).
“I love the way we played in the first half,” coach Stan Heath said. “We played great defense, shared the ball and played unselfish, but for some reason it seems we came out the gate and let that momentum get away from us.”
Junior forward Victor Rudd led the charge of a Bulls team that looked unstoppable, scoring 12 points and snagging six rebounds.
Both senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and sophomore guard Anthony Collins chipped in with eight points each.
Everything was clicking for USF, opening up the night on a 10-2 run in the first three minutes.
By halftime, fans witnessed USF shooters that were sniping from everywhere on the court, going 55 percent on the floor, 60 percent from three-point range, all while holding a 36-25 lead heading into the locker room.
The Friars were struggling. They went 3-10 from deep, and weren’t much better in the field at 9-24.
It was safe to say that all was well in the Sun Dome for the Bulls.
But the second half featured two entirely different teams.
Providence stole the momentum the Bulls had from earlier in the game, as the Friars went on a dominating 23-2 run coming out of halftime, forcing USF to trail 48-38.
“Our defense in the second half was not at the level it needed to be at all,” Heath said. “We let up to many baskets in transition and they got hot.”
The tides were turning and USF didn’t have an answer, responding with an abysmal 1-12 shooting performance from the floor.
From there, Providence took complete control.
“Momentum is a funny thing,” Heath said. “You get it, and you want to hold onto it. The other team gets it and you want to find a way to put it out quick.”
While Rudd continued one of his best conference performances with a double-double, scoring 26 points with 12 rebounds and Collins also recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists, the individual performances weren’t enough to lift a USF team that shot 31 percent in the field in the second half.
“Victor Rudd had one of his best games in the Big East ever. Anthony Collins played like Anthony Collins with a double-double tonight. Fitzpatrick was solid, my veteran guys actually stepped up tonight and that was my biggest concern.” Heath said. “But we needed one more guy to step it up.”
The Friars seemed to channel the momentum that the Bulls once had, draining nearly every shot and forcing turnovers. Going 89 percent from the free throw line didn’t hurt either.
The team’s next game is at home
against Louisville on Sunday at 1 p.m.