With the cameras on and lights bright, the fluorescent glow of the spotlight looked like it usually does for the USF men’s basketball team. The same glow on the same team that’s been there all season.
The problem is the Bulls are not bad. Far from it.
The strangest thing to see on the hardwood is why USF is struggling.
If Terrence Leather had 24 points instead of four fouls in the first half and if Brian Swift scored even more than a career-best 27 points and if Solomon Jones blocks shots with his albatross-like wingspan and If Marlyn Bryant can get a dunk to go down and even if freshman Collin Dennis made the amazing drives that he has been, then the Bulls would be the team that everyone wants — even dreams — them to be.
A team that looks forward to the next game. A team that can have a better hold on the playoffs.
It’s not that the Bulls lack the buck of the Brahman. It’s that they have to play good teams every so often.
Teams like Cincinnati.
A USF basketball player can walk around campus looking and seeming like the biggest man in the world. They even have to duck to get into the Library.
But Thursday night, even the 6-foot-10 Jones looked undersized.
The team didn’t have many highlights. Then, of course, they had to watch half of the announced crowd of 6,182 walk out at halftime.
For those who did, knowing who you are and how cruel it is to these guys, you missed some of the best action, despite Leather fouling out with over 10 minutes left in the game.
He didn’t go far, though.
He sat, intently and quietly, in the middle of his players, watching Jason Maxiell and Eric Hicks and the rest of the No. 20 Bearcats have their way with the Bulls.
And Leather also saw the game’s few highlights, such as the hilarity of the announcer trying to get out Marius Pre-ke-vi-cious in one breath or the “Hey, Tom. Shut up,” chant. But hats off to those hecklers. It takes a certain level of intelligence to think up those very clever jeers and signs.
Don Zimmer was also at the game. He sat in a floor seat, leaning forward like it was the middle of baseball season. Unfortunately, he was there for Cincinnati and, that’s right, George Steinbrenner showed up with Pedro Martinez and tried to fire him.
Green shirts with the USF logo were given away to everyone at the game by Dodge. They were really nice, er, sweet.
Swift had a career game in terms of scoring, but still wasn’t happy. He spoke after the game with a large cut on his neck and tears held back.
“Any time you have anything statistically for yourself, you know if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter,” Swift said. “If we don’t come out with a win, it doesn’t matter to me.”
He may be able to appreciate the stat one day, or perhaps be able to look back and brag to all his family in Ohio about it, but not today and probably not next week, either.”I’m about wins and losses,” Swift added.
He’s right, but more losses keep coming instead of wins. Swift said it’s “tough” against those “caliber” opponents — that doesn’t help this season’s attempt at the postseason. But then again, Cincinnati will be in the Big East next year, too.
So the season doesn’t end today.
Bob Huggins knows that.
“This is the time of the year you try to win and keep on going,” he said.
For the Bulls, the wins will come and so will more losses. Something that they are getting used to is teams like the Bearcats and others.
The basketball team isn’t bad. As matter of fact, they didn’t lose by 24 points.
Not even close.
They only lost in the spotlight.
That same glow from the national spotlight.