How did the Bulls, a team without a Big East win, hold off the No. 20 Georgetown Hoyas? Did they deserve it? Did the law of averages kick in? No, I need to find the answer – the real answer.
For the first time in two months, the men’s basketball team won a game exactly how it had lost most of its previous 17. It pulled ahead, didn’t make mistakes down the stretch and made shots. But why?
“You could just tell, the confidence in everybody,” senior James Holmes said. “You could see it in everybody’s face that we all believed that we were going to come up with this victory.”
If all it took was a feeling, a belief that they could win, then USF should mass produce and bottle the elixir of the feeling that would take down the No. 20 team in the country. But even if the Bulls sold it, marketed it, put billboards up around Fowler Avenue and advertised on infomercials late at night between the Total Gym and the Magic Bullet, I’m not buying it.
So, can someone do a better job explaining it?
“Being in this situation so many times, being up with so many minutes to go and then having a couple breakdowns at the end of the game,” said Solomon Jones, who had a career-high 23 points.
“I think us being in this situation so many times helped us tonight, and we knew that once we got this lead here at the end that we weren’t going to let up.”
Junior Melvin Buckley also said that the Bulls just learned how to win. OK, now we are getting somewhere.
“It ain’t that simple,” Jones said. “Nothing’s simple.”
Alright Jones, then why did you win?
“When you just come out and work hard throughout the whole year, you deserve to leave with a win,” Jones said.
That just raises more questions such as: Why wait so long? How stubborn can this team be? Is it really learning how to win, or is it learning McCullum’s playbook, or learning not to give up?
Georgetown coach John Thompson III said there are lessons from losing, but he couldn’t describe what those lessons are exactly – he did say watching film and going over the loss helped.
But isn’t constantly analyzing the losses what put the Bulls on a 17-game losing streak? Thompson continued:
“We need to bounce back, not dwell on losses,” Thompson said. “We have to bounce back quickly. We need to take whatever we can take from it.”
Well, what can you take from a loss?
“Sitting here right now,” Thompson said. “I’m not sure.”
Another dead end.
Coach Robert McCullum, there must have been some reason your team won?
“Anytime things are going bad for you regardless of what you’re involved with, you want to try and find something positive that you can take from it,” he said.
So, what positive things did you take from all the losses?
“I thought we regrouped in the second half, and at one point during a time out I just directed them, ‘Look, throw the ball to Sol,’ plain and simple,” McCullum said.
Just a second-half adjustment? Maybe the reason no one can explain it is because it was that simple. They just played ball, they rode their seniors, and they ignored what everybody had been saying about their team.
“We said we’re not going out like everybody projected us to do,” Jones said. “Tonight meant a lot. To prove everybody wrong that we could play in the Big East and we will get a win in the Big East.”
Scrap that theory.
Was USF actually the better team Saturday?
“I’ve said this before,” Thompson said. “If we don’t play well we can lose to any team in the country.”
I guess that’s the answer. For the first time in two months and in 18 games, the Bulls were the better team. Does that mean there could be more wins, and exactly how do they do it?
“You’ve just got to take this as a learning experience,” Jones said. “I hope (next year) these guys feed off of this.”
Will they feed off of “this?”
“After all them losses,” Holmes said. “You forget how it feels to win.”
Will next year’s Bull forget?
That’s the real question.