Members of The Oracle Sports team were asked to name their pick for the most memorable USF sports moment in the past two years. Each moment was selected with context and, of course, personal opinion in mind. Here’s what Francisco, Hannah, Justin and Nolan had to say.
Francisco – Men’s basketball’s CBI Championship win
In the years preceding Coach Brian Gregory’s arrival at USF in 2017, it was no secret that the men’s basketball program had been in the doldrums for several years.
During the previous regime under Orlando Antigua, the Bulls had a record of 23-55 in two and a half seasons before Antigua was let go in 2016. The season before Gregory took over, the Bulls mustered just seven wins and went 1-17 in conference play.
Gregory’s first season brought more of the same during a 10-win campaign with only three conference wins.
This is why winning the 2018-19 College Basketball Invitational during Gregory’s second season in charge was not only surprising but perhaps the greatest moment since the program’s last appearance in a postseason tournament in 2012.
The first round of the tournament gave the Bulls a big scare. Down 18 points at halftime against Stony Brook, the Bulls needed to force their way to an overtime 82-79 win.
The quarterfinal and semifinal were relatively more comfortable with a 66-57 win over Utah Valley and a 56-47 victory over Loyola Marymount respectively.
The championship series, however, had no shortage of drama.
Game 1 of the best-of-three championship series against DePaul was a back and forth affair. Tied at 61-61 with 12 seconds remaining, David Collins hit the game-winning floater with 1.7 seconds remaining to send the Yuengling Center crowd into delirium.
Despite a career-high 35 points from Laquincy Rideau in Game 2, the Bulls lost in overtime at DePaul to set up the winner-take-all Game 3 which the Bulls won 77-65 behind Collins’ 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Collins went on to win MVP of the tournament.
The CBI isn’t the most prestigious postseason tournament, but for the first time in a long time, fans had a reason to believe in USF men’s basketball.
Hannah – Football’s win over BYU Homecoming game 2019
Last season wasn’t too kind to USF football. A 4-8 finish is nothing to celebrate by any means.
But out of those four wins, the 27-23 win over BYU in the Homecoming game sticks out the most.
It didn’t start out too well, though.
The Bulls were down 13-0 late into the second quarter, but with six minutes left until halftime, USF had a chance to put some points on the board.
Quarterback Jordan McCloud dropped back, looking for his man. McCloud saw tight end Mitchell Wilcox go up the right and, just like butter, the ball left his hands, glided through the air and slipped into Wilcox’s grasp for a 39-yard touchdown reception. The Bulls were on the board.
It was a touchdown that kick-started much-needed momentum.
The USF offense thrived off rushing yards — tailback Jordan Cronkrite made a career-best 26 rushes for 158 yards and scored two touchdowns, including one that eventually sealed the win.
The Bulls’ defense was also arguably unstoppable, making a total of 83 tackles and recording six sacks, the most the Bulls had in a game since 2012. USF also held BYU for the last seven minutes of the fourth quarter and forced a turnover at the Bulls’ 5-yard line.
With offense and defense producing on all cylinders, even special teams outdid themselves. Trent Schneider punted five times for an average of over 52 yards, setting a new program record.
On its own, the win over the Cougars was something to celebrate. It was also the second consecutive win over an FBS team after the Bulls dismantled UConn 48-22 the week before.
Given where USF was at the end of the season, a two-game win streak was something to celebrate.
Justin – Men’s basketball’s home win over UCF
Some people say there is no true advantage to having home court. Those people would have eaten their words on Feb. 1, 2020, after USF men’s basketball dismantled UCF 64-48.
Before this victory, USF had dropped its last nine consecutive games to the Knights, including a 55-54 loss at UCF earlier that year.
This time around was something different. A packed home arena and a surging bench made all the difference.
The season-high crowd of 6,254 at the Yuengling Center fueled the Bulls’ momentum they needed to secure the win. USF ate that energy up and went on a 30-6 first-half run to assert its dominance.
On the offensive end, senior standout Laquincy Rideau led the way for the Bulls scoring 14 points and dishing out seven assists. He also recorded six steals, which led to two fast-break opportunities.
The Bulls also got some help from their bench with Zack Dawson and Justin Brown putting on an offensive show, combining for 26 points off the bench and sinking a combined five three-pointers. Brown also corralled eight rebounds in the game.
Defensively, the Bulls limited the Knights 22 first-half points, forced 16 turnovers and held UCF to nine percent from three-point range.
USF limited UCF to a season-low 18 field goals. The Knights had made over 22 field goals per game against conference opponents before the loss at USF.
Even if the Bulls beat the Knights in front of an empty arena, it would be a monumental occasion. After all, it was the first conference win against UCF in five years. But add in the record crowd and it made for one of the most memorable victories.
Nolan – Women’s soccer’s win over UF in the NCAA Tournament
It was dubbed the revenge tour, and revenge is what the Bulls got.
USF headed up to Gainesville for the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a chip on its shoulder.
The Bulls had already fallen 2-0 at home against the Gators just three months prior, and a shot at redemption wasn’t going to be taken lightly.
Already denied home-field advantage by the NCAA — USF was No. 24 in RPI and had just won the AAC Championship, while UF wasn’t ranked and was knocked out in the SEC semifinals — the Bulls seemingly began on the back foot.
But confidence wasn’t low heading into the match and it certainly wasn’t low 42 minutes after the opening whistle.
Bang, Evelyne Viens’ shot hit the back of the net, and USF was in front.
No more than 13 minutes later, Viens added two more.
The Gators put one back in the 62nd minute, but a headed goal from Fanny Pelletier-Laroche in the 84th minute more or less sealed the deal. The Gators scored another consolation goal in the following minute, but by then the damage was done.
The Bulls had spoiled the party in Gainesville and the revenge tour continued.
The first-round win over the Gators was special for two reasons. One, Viens’ red-hot boot continued its terrorizing run and she scored two more goals in the next two games.
Two, dismantling the Gators was just the start. The Bulls shut out Washington 2-0 in the second round, thanks to a Viens brace. USF made it to the third round but fell 2-1 against FSU at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
It didn’t go their way, but the Bulls had made their deepest run in the NCAA tournament in program history, which is a landmark celebration in its own right.