After starting the season 7-0, the soaring Bulls were rudely brought back down to Earth by Florida, as the then sixth-ranked Gators defeated the Bulls 92-73 at the Sun Dome Dec. 8. The turning point came during a stifling 16-0 Gators run midway through the second half. Reggie Kohn led USF with 18 points on six three-pointers.
Things didn’t get any easier for the Bulls as they traveled to face then 18th-ranked Syracuse at the Carrier Dome Dec. 20. Propelled by the return of coach Jim Boeheim following a three-game medical absence, the Orangemen cruised to an 80-68 win. Altron Jackson paced the Bulls with 22 points.
But the Bulls bounced back to win the USF Holiday Classic Dec. 28-29 at the Sun Dome after defeating Bucknell 59-56 in the semifinal game and Illinois-Chicago 82-78 in the championship. Jackson scored 21 against Bucknell, but none were bigger than the go-ahead basket with 42 seconds left to play. Against Illinois-Chicago, Jackson (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Waldon (11, 14) each posted double-doubles, earning the pair a spot alongside McDonald on the All-Tournament Team. Jackson was also named the MVP of the Classic.
USF retired former great Radenko Dobras’ jersey during a halftime ceremony, but visiting FSU overcame a 52-45 second-half deficit to upset the Bulls 78-74 Jan. 2 at the Sun Dome. Jackson led USF with 23 points and 10 steals.