With less than two minutes remaining and the Bulls holding a three-point lead, junior guard Corey Allen Jr. snatched the ball from the Stetson Hatters and dunked it home to increase the lead to five and swing the momentum in the Bulls’ favor.
“I didn’t know he was going to throw it, but I just watched his eyes and he telegraphed the pass, so I just went to go get it,” Allen Jr. said.
The crowd of just less than 4,000 at the Sun Dome erupted and the Bulls never relinquished the lead, pulling away from the winless Hatters in the final minute. USF (4-0) beat Stetson (0-5) 72-63 using six steals from Allen Jr. to secure the victory.
USF coach Stan Heath was grateful for Allen Jr.’s defense late in the game, and said the team didn’t focus enough on preparing for Stetson.
“Fortunately for us, toward the end, I thought Corey Allen really stepped up for us and made some great defensive plays,” Heath said.
Despite the difference in records, the Bulls nearly lost. Both the players and Heath admitted the upset almost happened because they were looking ahead to the next game, tonight against No. 7 Oklahoma State.
“Oklahoma State is a big game for us and I think we were kind of overlooking Stetson,” Allen Jr. said. “In college basketball, you can lose any game, and I think our focus was more on Monday night.”
Heath agreed and said the players were talking about Oklahoma State all week during practice.
“Mentally, our focus wasn’t where it was supposed to be,” Heath said.
Oklahoma State has one of the game’s elite players in sophomore guard Marcus Smart, who was predicted by ESPN analysts to go in the top 10 of last year’s NBA draft, elected to come back to school and is off to a torrid start.
Smart is averaging 20 points per game this season, leaving the question of who will guard him.
“It doesn’t matter,” senior guard Martino Brock said. “We can all defend, it’s what we do. He isn’t new to us. We played him last year, so we’re ready.”
Tonight the Bulls have the opportunity to shock the nation with a defeat of the Cowboys. The game begins at 7 p.m. in the Sun Dome.