Bulls come together in last home game
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 01:03
As the buzzer went off to end the Bulls’ last home game of the season Wednesday night, senior walk-on Mike McCloskey was at the point for USF.
Fans roared for both McCloskey getting playing time, and for USF’s second straight win, beating UConn (19-10, 9-8) in the Sun Dome, 65-51.
Though McCloskey banked a lay-up with 2:40 left in the game that sent the 5,198 fans into a frenzy, most of the cheers came as USF senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick walked off the court with one finger held high in the air.
It was Fitzpatrick’s last home game as a Bull, and though eight points and six rebounds didn’t quite follow his previous performance in the DePaul win, it was a win nevertheless for the Tampa native.
Next to Fitzpatrick, who was busy hugging his teammates and coaches, was perhaps the future of the program — or at least part of it.
Freshman forward Zach LeDay gave the Bulls (12-17, 3-14) solid play off the bench, matching Fitzpatrick’s six rebounds, but coming third in scoring with 11 points during the night.
Though a 22-4 run two minutes into the second half seemed to seal the deal well before the final buzzer, the first two minutes had Bulls fans on edge as they anticipated the 10-straight-loss team coming back onto the court.
During the losing streak USF was on just days ago, the Bulls were known for blowing leads — but not in this game.
“The second half was the key. It was a boxing match back and forth and both teams were throwing punches,” Heath said. “But we finished the way we wanted to.”
As the Huskies earned their first lead of the night with a 32-28 advantage over USF to open the second half, it was a steal by sophomore guard Anthony Collins who tossed it to LeDay, who then dished it to junior guard Martino Brock for a layup to begin the big run.
Brock proved for a second straight game his value as USF nears Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament.
Brock finished his night snagging six rebounds with 18 points.
“He’s a very good, athletic player.” Heath said. “He’s a very high energy guy, and when he gives us another option for scoring he makes us a better team and a tougher team to guard.”
Though Brock showcased his skills, getting two key blocks and steals in the game, junior forward Victor Rudd was the clear-cut star.
The double-double put on by Rudd, who had 17 points with 11 rebounds, were full of plays that may even earn him a spot on Sports Center’s Top 10 plays — a monster left-hand put back dunk to drop jaws in the crowd, an out-of-nowhere alley-oop to keep the fans cheering and more.
Whether it was a walk-on finally scoring on the court, a senior departing his team of four years or a junior who simply could not be contained, it was clear that the second straight win came from all the individual performance coming together to form a team with momentum.
Collins’ 12 assists on the night acted as the glue to hold the performances together.
“We have to build on that momentum and we’re getting good play from a lot of different guys,” Heath said. “You know, Collins stirs the drink, but Brock probably played his second game in a row where it was the highest level he’s played at all season long, Rudd continues to play at a high level and even LeDay has given us great minutes off the bench.”
The Bulls face Cincinnati before heading to Madison Square Garden.
“You never know what can happen in the Big East tournament,” Collins said.