TAMPA, MARCH 8, 2014 – USF was determined to send its seniors out on top and nearly pulled off a thrilling comeback victory before a crowd of 4,073 at the Sun Dome on Saturday afternoon.
Quenton DeCosey beat the buzzer with a jumper to send Temple past USF, 66-65, in the regular season finale for both teams. USF had an 18-point lead with less than 9 minutes to go and lost it in the final minute before a tip-in by freshman Chris Perry (Bartow) gave the Bulls a 65-64 advantage with 4.6 seconds remaining.
“You certainly want your seniors to go out with a win and we’ve just been so close. It seems like there has been about three games in the last two, three weeks played just like that,” head coach Stan Heath said. “We haven’t figured out how to close that thing out with a stop and that’s been the tough, frustrating part.”
Corey Allen Jr. (St. Louis, Mo.) led the way with 18 points, while seniors Martino Brock Memphis, Tenn.) scored 16 points and Victor Rudd added 13 points and eight rebounds with their loved ones in the stand for the special day. Rudd (Los Angeles) currently has 1,194 points as a Bull and needs two more to pass Terrence Leather for 10th place on USF’s all-time scoring list.
“Vic, if he gets one more point or two more points in the tournament, he’s going to leave here in the top 10 in scoring and I think it’s a landmark in itself,” Heath said. “I think Martino is going to leave here as a guy that fans will remember as aggressive and attacking the basket. He led our team in steals.”
Brock’s layup nearly 10 minutes in spotted USF an 15-14 lead and the Bulls never looked back on the way to a 33-26 halftime lead. USF was able to seize the momentum by going on a 10-0 run, sparked by Brock’s layup, and another score in the paint by Allen pumped the lead up to 25-14 with 7:06 to play in the opening period.
Allen had a team-high 11 points at the half after starting 4-for-5 from the field and 2-for-2 from 3-point range. Brock was on his way to posting his 12th double-digit scoring game of the season with eight points.
Another big reason why the Bulls headed to halftime with a lead and a ton of confidence was because of the team’s ability to outscore Temple, 12-0, in points off turnovers after forcing nine takeaways.
USF kept the momentum going by opening the second half on a 7-0 run. Rudd’s 3-pointer extended the lead to 40-26 with 15:29 to play and Temple didn’t reach the 30-point mark until Mark Williams’ layup cut the Owl’s deficit to 43-30 with 13:20 remaining.
Allen answered with his third 3-pointer to keep the Bulls rolling, but they couldn’t stop Temple from attacking the paint during the big comeback. USF’s 18-point lead with less than 9 minutes to go was erased inside the 2-minute mark when Temple tied the game up at 61 with a pair of free throws from Dalton Pepper.
USF went back ahead with a jumper by Allen before Temple (9-21, 4-14) took back the lead on a layup by Pepper with 17 seconds left. Still, the Bulls were in a position for the win when Perry cashed in on the team’s third opportunity at a basket in the paint in the final seconds.
“We played great defense in this game until maybe about that 7-minute mark when they starting going on a run and driving the ball,” Heath said. “But that’s kind of been the elusive part of our team right now. When we need that stop and need the rebound we haven’t been able to come up with it.”
The Bulls (12-19, 3-15) are the No. 10 seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament and their run will begin 7 p.m. Wednesday against seventh-seeded Rutgers at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn. (TV: ESPNU). Fans planning to make the trip can purchase tickets HERE.
“We’re in a new season now,” Heath said. “At this point in time your players can decide how much they really want to play. If they’re intense, if they have high energy, if they’re moving together as a group, you can win and you can advance.”