March 25, 2015.
That was the last time USF men’s basketball (10-12, 3-6) beat UCF (11-9, 2-7).
After that date, the Bulls lost nine consecutive games to their rivals, including a 55-54 loss on Jan. 18 in Orlando.
The Bulls finally got back in the win column in the War on I-4 on Saturday with a 64-48 win at the Yuengling Center in front of a season-high crowd of 6,254.
“This is a huge win,” senior guard Laquincy Rideau said. “Just to win it at home, as a senior now, even though I’m 1-4 against UCF, that last one is what I’m going to remember.”
USF came out of the gate a bit slow, trailing 10-6 in the opening minutes of the first half. From that point on, the Bulls went on an 11-0 run, giving USF a lead it never relinquished. The Bulls led by as much as 20 at one point after going on a 22-4 run. USF never let its lead get smaller than 10 points.
It was a gritty defensive performance by the Bulls from the beginning. They held the Knights to just 22 first-half points and held them to 1-of-11 from 3-point range in the first half and 2-of-22 for the entire game. It was all about effort and rebounding, according to senior forward Antun Maricevic.
“We just out hustled them,” Mariceivc said “We just like to play hard.”
Rideau echoed that sentiment.
“We did a good job keeping them out of the paint in the second half,” Rideau said. “We were plus-five on the rebounds and we just didn’t give them those second-chance points.”
As good as the defense was, the Bulls’ offense struggled a bit as it went scoreless the first five minutes of the second half. Leading scorer David Collins was held to just four points all night and did not make a field goal until late in the second half.
However, junior guard Justin Brown and sophomore guard Zack Dawson had big nights.
Brown finished with a team-high 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds while shooting 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Dawson finished with 12 points on a perfect 3-of-3 form the field and 4-of-4 form the free-throw line. Coach Brian Grergory had great things to say about both players performances.
“He (Brown) is one of the hubs of our programs as we started,” Gregory said. “JB is an unbelievable young man and good things are going to happen, he just needs to stick to it and today was a perfect example of that. We don’t win that game without his energy.
“[Dawson] is playing with much more confidence. He’s averaging a little over eight points a game… he’s got a chance to be a super player in this league no question about it.”
Gregory acknowledged the significance a win like this can have on his program.
“There are some mile markers and this is a big one for us,” Gregory said. “To be able break the streak and to break it in front of all of those people that were really behind us is great for the program. This could be one of those when you look two or three years down the road, you say, ‘That was a big turning point in building the program that you have today,’ and we need to continue to take those steps.”