The crowd was roaring on Sunday as the clock hit all zeros and USF senior forwardToarlynFitzpatrick held on to the ball to secure the Bulls first win in over a month to snap a ten-game losing streak.
We almost forgot what it felt like to get a win, Fitzpatrick said.
Sunday was Senior Day for USF, and the Bulls seemed to ride the energy to an 83-73 win overDePaul.
Winning is what its all about. it makes you feel good, USF coach Stan Heath said. Wefinished strong and thats all weve been preaching.
The win over the Blue Demons made for USFs eighth straight win againstDePualwith the all timerecord at 16-11, DePaul stillleading the series.
Fitzpatrick said he made sure to put his heart on the hardwood in the afternoon matchup against a DePaul team that was sitting atsecond to last in the Big East.
He had more than 20 friends and family members in the crowd to witness his senior dayperformance and the teams win asFitzpatricks fan sectionsported all black to makefor whatFitzpartickreferred to as a mini-blackout.
Of course I wanted to play well, Fitzpatrick said. But at the same time I approached the game the same way, it just so happen that I had a good game on this day.
As a senior and Tampanative, Fitzpatrick helped the Bulls earn the win leading USF in both points and rebounds with19 and 8 respectively. He even boosted the Bulls play frombeyond the arch, tying acareer high in three-pointers with five on the day out of his eightattempted.
I knew it was very important for him, Heath said. Its not just Senior USF day, its Senior Day in the community in the city ofTampa.
Even fellow senior, guardJawanzaPoland, scored intodouble-digits for his 11-point performance.
But the younger teammates helped send the seniors off with a win as well.
USF sophomore guardAnthony Collins came up big for the Bulls late in the game,changing his role as a facilitator to a scoring machine.
After DePaul snagged its first lead of the game with 8:10 to go in the second half up 60-58, it was Collins that decided to switch gears.
One day Im going to be asenior and I would like to end it on a good note, Collins said. I thought it would only be right to end today with a win.
The Bulls went on a12-2 run to regain both the lead andmomentum as they rode the energy coming from Collins, who scored 10 of his total 16 points on that run with 4:26 left on the clock.
Collins was fantastic, especially at that critical time, Heath said.
USF junior forward Victor Rudd, who matched Collins total of16 points, drained six straight free throws to end the game.
While the free throws to end it were Rudds only points of thesecond half, it was Rudd who helped the Bulls to a lead in the first place with strong play to start things off.
Rudd, who put up 10 points in the first half alone, got the first points of the game, hitting athree-pointer four minutes into the game. After Rudds shot, USF went on a 14-6 run.
USF, in front of5,383 screaming fans,started to spark early on, yet lost the spark when DePaulstarted to get back into the game,coming within five pointswith about seven minutes leftuntil halftime.
Though the Bulls looked as if they were reverting back to the way theyve beenplaying for over a month, USFmanaged to hold a four point lead athalftime, DePaul trailing 37-33.
As USF had five players score into double digits, something they havent done all year, it was clear that the game meant a lot to the players especially Fitzpatrick.
Ive seen guys have fantastic senior days, and Ive seen guys so tight that it just never happens, Heath said. Its good to see him have a good Senior Day with a win and a terrific performance all the way around.
The Bulls have two more games left in the season, the last home game being against Connecticut on Wednesday at 9 p.m..