The sweet taste of victory — a taste foreign to USF men’s basketball in 2017, finally became a reality once again on Saturday night at the Sun Dome.
Despite a shaky start, USF (7-17, 1-12) recorded its first conference win of the season, defeating East Carolina, 64-57.
The win was Murry Bartow’s first as the interim coach of the Bulls. Despite the personal milestone however, Bartow was far more excited for what the win meant for his players, who finally saw their hard work and resilience pay off.
“I’m just happy for the players because they’ve been through a lot, but they just never stop trying to play,” Bartow said. “They never pout, they never get down, they never feel sorry for themselves.”
Bartow had faith in his team despite recent struggles, and repeatedly said that a win was coming.
“We knew at some point we’d get one, and tonight was that night,” he said.
Judging by the opening minutes of the game however, it did not appear like Saturday would be the night for USF. The Bulls found themselves trailing 11-2 just two minutes into the game, with the Pirates scoring at will.
To stop the bleeding, Bartow checked in forward Tulio Da Silva off the bench. The freshman energized his teammates, and the 2,901 in attendance with three powerful dunks in the first half, as well as playing stout defense atop the 3-2 zone.
“Our 3-2 zone with Tulio at top was big,” Bartow said. “He looked really good out there tonight.”
The Bulls lead by as many as 15 early in the second half, but the Pirates (11-14, 3-9) would not go down without a fight. Cutting the lead to as little as three, it appeared that the Bulls’ late second-half woes were returning.
That’s when top scorer, Geno Thorpe, took the game over.
“After there was three or four minutes left, I knew I needed to have the ball in my hand,” Thorpe said. “I was just making sure we got off the best shots possible.”
Coming off the bench due to a grade slipping in one of his classes, Thorpe finished with eight assists and 22 points. With the Bulls offense running through him late in the game, he embraced the responsibility, and closed out the win for USF.
Following the victory, you could find Bartow at World of Beer celebrating briefly before getting back to work to prepare for the next opponent.
The Bulls will aim to keep their momentum rolling Wednesday when they play No. 11 Cincinnati (21-2, 11-0) at the Sun Dome at 7 p.m.