Down seven with left in the game, USF (10-8, 1-4) was in need of a defensive stop in order to keep themselves within striking distance of Cincinnati (17-2, 6-0).
Coming off an in-bound pass, Cincinnati senior forward Justin Jackson faked a pass and the Bulls bit on the fake, which left Jackson an open lane for a thunderous dunk.
The Bearcats went up by nine and despite a 3-pointer by USF sophomore guard Javontae Hawkins, the Bulls couldn’t cut the deficit to less than four, and lost the game, 61-54.
USF coach Stan Heath described what went wrong in defending the play.
“He just tricked us,” he said. “He had the ball, he fakes the handoff and he just went the other way with it. It’s just one of those things that we got fooled on a little bit.”
Hawkins’ 3-pointer with left gave him 15 points on the night and a new career-high. His 15 points led the team and provided a spark from behind the arc, making the only two three pointers of the game for the Bulls.
Hawkins’ scoring began with a baseline dunk that energized the crowd. He said he believes it played a big part in his scoring outburst.
“It did me good,” Hawkins said. “We got on a spurt and it gave energy to the team. We got a little run there where we were playing off the energy.”
Heath was impressed by Hawkins’ performance, but he said he has been waiting for games like these since last year.
“We needed that,” Heath said. “That was the Javontae I was expecting from his freshman year to be playing like that. Certainly a huge shot in the arm for our team and hopefully he can continue to play like that.”
The Bulls hung in the game, never trailing by less than 10, but couldn’t mount enough of a run to overcome the deficit. Senior forward Victor Rudd believes the team should have capitalized on the opportunity and won the game.
“This is a game we felt like we should’ve won,” Rudd said. “The good thing is we’ve got another chance to beat them.”
The Bulls will face the Bearcats again on in Cincinnati. The next game for the Bulls will be a home game against Louisville .