Providence 77 | USF 72
It was Senior Night – a chance for a few players to showcase their talents to the home fans for one last time – but for USF’s season-scoring leader, it was one of his worst games all year.
Forward Melvin Buckley entered the game against Providence on Wednesday night averaging 15.5 points per game, but in his final game at the Sun Dome he failed to score in double figures for just the third time this season, and he failed to make a three-pointer for just the second time this season.
Buckley was held to nine points while shooting a dismal 4-of-19 from the field, while the Bulls (12-17, 3-12) lost 77-72 to the Friars (18-10, 8-7) in front of 3,391 fans.
“It was foreign,” Buckley said of playing in his last home game. “I had never been there, so going into a game like this kind of puts everything into reality – it’s like ‘wow, this is the last time I’m going to suit up at home in a college basketball game,’ so it was tough.”
With less than four seconds remaining in the game, Buckley had the ball and a chance to tie it up if he could hit a three-pointer. Once he realized USF was out of timeouts, he got a shot off, but just like his previous 10 three-point attempts, he didn’t make it.
After Buckley’s missed shot, Providence guard Sharaud Curry took the ball down court and scored as the game – and Buckley’s career at the Sun Dome – ended.
“I thought we had a timeout, then they were screaming ‘no timeouts,’ so I kind of spun to the baseline and pumped fake to try and get (Jonathan Kale) in the air and lean into him, and he got my elbow,” Buckley said. “At that point in the game, after the officials made the call (you can’t argue it). It was up to me to make that shot, and I didn’t come through.”
Buckley’s failed attempt to tie the game at the end summed up his performance from tip-off. He entered the night third in the Big East in three-pointers per game (2.82), but that didn’t faze the Friars.
“Shot after shot was just in and out, in and out,” Buckley said. “It’s a nightmare for a shooter, especially on a night like this when it’s the last time that I’m going to play in front of the (home) crowd.”
Despite Buckley’s shooting struggles, the Bulls had their chances to come out on top. The game was tied at 33 at halftime, but Providence weakened the momentum USF closed out the first half with by jumping out to a 10-point lead less than four minutes into the second half.
“We told our guys after the game that every game there are two or three pivotal periods that you can point to where you feel like the game gets away from you,” McCullum said. “Obviously, that was during that period.
“I thought we really played hard tonight, and it’s not often that you’re going to have a chance to win a Big East basketball game when your best shooter goes 0-11 (from three-point range).”
McHugh Mattis, Chris Capko and Melvyn Richardson were honored along with Buckley before the game as the Bulls’ four seniors.
Mattis blocked three shots and is now tied with Gerrick Morris for most blocks in a season at USF with 108, while Capko came off the bench and played six minutes, earning an assist and a steal.
Capko, who has appeared in 64 games at USF, said it was emotional being out on the court for one last time and he knows Buckley didn’t go out the way the Bulls hoped he would.
“He didn’t shoot the ball like he knows he’s capable of shooting the ball – like we expect him to shoot the ball – but in the same token we know he tried his hardest,” Capko said. “As long as we know he played as hard as he can, we’ll live with it.”