After setting a school record with 17 straight losses and losing its first 15 Big East games, the men’s basketball team upset No. 20 Georgetown in its final game of the season.
It was Senior Night at the Sun Dome, and USF (7-22, 1-15) sent out its two seniors, center Solomon Jones and guard James Holmes, with a 63-56 win over the Hoyas (19-8, 10-6).”We talked about wanting to win for the seniors,” coach Robert McCullum said. “Obviously this was their last opportunity, and in addition to that, any time 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.”
The Bulls led nearly the entire game, and after Jones scored two free throws and had two dunks late in the game, Georgetown began intentionally fouling USF.
“When they started fouling, we knew it just a matter of us hitting free throws,” said Holmes, who scored 10 points and finished the season as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 16.6 points per game. “We work on that in practice, so after they continued to foul, we just continued to lock down on defense and get stops, and I knew we had the game.”
Jones, who has been scouted by the NBA all season, may have saved his best collegiate performance for last. Jones shot 9-for-10 from the field and had a career-high and game-high 23 points in front of a crowd of 6,088.
“We felt going in that when they played man-to-man that (Jones) could cause (center Roy) Hibbert matchup problems just because of his quickness, his athleticism,” McCullum said. “And he got off to a good start doing that, and we sort of got away from him for a while.
“Their zone defense in the first half obviously bothered us, slowed us down quite a bit. And I thought we regrouped in the second half, and at one point during a timeout I just directed them, ‘Look, throw the ball to Sol,’ plain and simple.”
Hoyas coach John Thompson III, who was frustrated after the loss cost the Hoyas a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament, acknowledged Jones’ play.
“He’s terrific,” Thompson said. “He’s going to be playing basketball for a long time. He’s very good on the offensive end. He’s very good on the defensive end. He has a very good feel for the game.”
Jones kept his head up all season despite all the losses and remained confident the Bulls wouldn’t finish with the school’s worst record ever (6-22 in 1987-88).
“When we first came here before shoot-around, everybody gathered in the locker room, and we said we’re not going out like everybody projected us to do,” Jones said. “We wish we could’ve won more games, but just getting this victory 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.”
Georgetown went on a 10-0 run to end the first half with a 31-30 lead, but junior forward Melvin Buckley opened the second half with a three-pointer to put USF back on top. Buckley finished with 12 points, all from beyond the arc.
Although Holmes won’t be a Bull next year for the school’s second season in the Big East, he’s hopeful for the future of the team.
“I think it helps turn the corner,” Holmes said. “It’s something to look forward to, knowing you can beat these guys. We competed all year. To end on a good note and start off positive, we won one game, and hopefully it continues.”