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With late win, USF poised for more

Published: Monday, January 16, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 02:01

 

 

For the USF men's basketball team, Friday's win over No. 24 Seton Hall was a long time coming. Finally, the Bulls knocked off a ranked team in a quality win. 

Time after time, the Bulls would play well against a difficult opponent for 32 minutes. And time after time, the Bulls couldn't finish the job. This season, poor second halves have caused losses to Old Dominion, Auburn, Southern Mississippi and No. 9 Connecticut. 

After a series of frustrating losses, the Bulls finally finished a game in their 56-55 upset victory, setting themselves up well for the remainder of the season.

"We wanted to get them," coach Stan Heath said. "It's something that we need to do because we want to have a good year."

The win was the first for the Bulls over a ranked team since their 72-64 victory over No. 10 Georgetown in 2010. After that win, the Bulls went 5-4 the remainder of the season, despite a difficult closing schedule.

The question for the Bulls now is: What will they do from here? With a 10-8 record and an impressive 9-1 record at home, USF is in the perfect position to post its best season since joining the vaunted Big East. 

"They're a good basketball team, they really are," said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard after the game. "I think they're a top-tier team in the Big East, especially at home. Their size will really bother a lot of teams." 

For the remainder of the season, the Bulls play three more ranked teams on the road — Georgetown, Marquette, and Louisville. 

Though all three will be tough tests and the Bulls have not yet shown an ability to win on the road with consistency, the way that USF beat the Pirates on Friday could be a building block for momentum. 

USF ended the game on a 14-3 run, turning a late double-digit deficit into a famous victory. The manner in which the Bulls won the game could be key as the season progresses.

"I had no idea we ended it on a 14-3 run," forward Ron Anderson Jr. said. "We were just kind of making plays. We didn't quit."

For the Bulls to keep winning close games against Big East opponents, they will have to keep that mindset of playing hard and not quitting.

USF leads the Big East during conference play in both defense, allowing just 59.4 points per game, and in free-throw shooting, making 78.6 percent from the line. 

If the Bulls can continue to play tough defense and make their free throws late in games, thanks to the momentum and confidence from their upset victory, they could turn this season from one with a few surprise victories to one that ends with a postseason bid.

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