As the 2012-13 season approaches, we’ll count down the days to the first game with a look back at some memorable games in USF Basketball history. These may not be the most famous games and they may not be the most crucial to the development of the program. But they are 15 mileposts that helped to get us to where we are, and each is worth looking back at.
By Jim Louk
February 24, 1992
USF 81, Tulane 76
Fogelman Arena, New Orleans
Against the backdrop of Mardi Gras, the Bulls arrived in New Orleans fresh off a road win over Virginia Tech. The challenge would be a big one; Tulane was nationally ranked, and their home court, Fogelman Arena, was the toughest road venue in the Metro Conference. With just over 3,500 seats, the arena was always jam packed, the crowd was right on the court, and the old building had no air conditioning, meaning even in February heat and humidity could be a factor. The Mardi Gras atmosphere, especially surrounding the Tulane student section, would guarantee a raucous arena.
By February 24, USF was in the home stretch of what would be their second run to the NCAA Tournament in three years. They already held wins over Florida, Florida State, Iowa, and Louisville.
Tulane’s program had literally risen from the dead. Following a series of scandals, the program had been shut down from 1985 to 1990. Now, only two years later, they were back and winning big. Perry Clark had installed a high scoring offense as well as a deep player rotation. The “posse” was running the show in New Orleans, and Clark frequently made five for five substitutions that left the opposing coach scrambling to compensate.
The two teams had met 18 days earlier in the Sun Dome, with Tulane winning 78-70 in overtime.
On this night, the game turned in to what many people expected, a back and forth struggle between two teams at the top of their conference. The Bulls 38-34 halftime lead evaporated and it was tied at 76 as time wound down.
The old building was electric that day; Tulane had won 17 straight home games, and their fans quite correctly felt they were part of the reason.
On what turned out to be one of the key moments of the season, the Bulls took the ball down court with the game tied.
The shot clock wound down, and the Bulls were left with one option; a three point attempt from the most unlikely source on the floor.
Bobby Russell was a starting forward; and he was an important player for the Bulls. He scored 8 points per game that year, and got almost 4 rebounds per game. He was a senior, and he could make a big play in the clutch.
Just not from the three point line.
The Bulls hit 158 three pointers that season. Bobby Russell hit 7, shooting 27%. But on that day in New Orleans, there was little doubt as the ball went airborne. Russell gave the Bulls a 79-76 lead and USF went on to win by five.
Radenko Dobras was held to 10 points, but Fred Lewis had 22 and Gary Alexander 20. And Bobby Russell? He finished with 17 including one very memorable three pointer; the only one he hit that day.
Tulane would finish 22-9 and win one game in the NCAA Tournament.
USF went on to win two more games in the regular season before being upset in the opening round of the Metro Tournament. They then received an at large berth 11 seed to go to Boise and play Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament.
The USF careers of Russell, Dobras, Alexander, and Lewis, among others, would end that day in Boise. But the memories remain clear, including a special day in the midst of a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.