USF junior guard Corey Allen Jr. found an opening at the top of the key. He released a three-point shot with no hesitation with 2:37 left in the game. The Bulls were up 68-61.
As the ball soared through the air on its way to the basket, USF fans began to stand up in anticipation.
The ball fell through the net and for the first time in over a month, USF fans had something to cheer about in the Sun Dome.
The players echoed the approval of the crowd, jumping out of their seats and raising three fingers in the air to signify the successful 3-pointer. The Mustangs wouldn’t get within six points for the rest of the game, as the Bulls ended a four-game skid with a 78-71 win against the Mustangs.
“My team was just telling me to shoot with confidence every time I took a shot, so that’s what I did,” Allen said.
USF coach Stan Heath criticized Allen for being too passive after the Cincinnati game Jan. 18, only taking four shots and not recording a single point. He turned that criticism into success last night, scoring 18 points.
But Allen wasn’t the only player who turned the corner against SMU. Senior forward Victor Rudd responded to his extended benching on Sunday at Memphis by scoring
21 points and reaching the 1,000-point mark for his career with the Bulls.
“I needed to bounce back for my teammates,” Rudd said. “I got out of character at Memphis and I (have) to let my
teammates know that ain’t me.”
The game was tightly contested until the final minute, but USF used intensity and a high-octane offense to overcome the Mustangs. The change in the Bulls’ attitude and style of play could very well be due to the speech Heath gave the team after the loss to Memphis. Heath revealed some of the speech he gave to the team in the lobby of the Muma Center.
“Do you want people seeing you pouting? Is that the image you want to see?” Heath asked them. “I think when they realized it, they started thinking about it and said: ‘Yeah that’s not me, that’s not how my parents raised me.’”
Freshman forward Chris Perry had been going through a rough stretch, only averaging six points over his last three games, but he brought the attitude and intensity that Heath has been preaching and delivered the best game of his young career with 18 points and seven rebounds.
“I woke up this morning feeling good and I told myself I wouldn’t have another bad game because I’ve been playing awful lately,” Perry said. “I just made sure my preparation for the game was better — like dunking in warm-ups and being positive.”
The improved attitude the Bulls displayed was evident to SMU coach and basketball Hall of Famer Larry Brown.
“Their energy was amazing. To have your team lose some games like they did and have Stan have them ready like this, I thought they did an unbelievable job,” Brown said. “They outcoached us and they outplayed us.”
The Bulls will try to carry over their improved outlook into their next game at
No. 13 Cincinnati on Sunday at noon.