^USF interim head coach Murry Bartow (left) and guard Geno Thorpe (13) embrace following a 64-57 victory against East Carolina Saturday night. Courtesy: USF Athletics
Geno Thorpe leads the way as Bulls finally snap losing streak.
by Brian Hattab
TAMPA-It had been a long time since USF men’s basketball (7-17, 1-12 The American) won against a fellow American Athletic Conference opponent. The Bulls’ last victory in conference play came last February 20th against Memphis.
The streak finally ended Saturday night thanks to a 64-57 victory against East Carolina in front of 2,901 at the Sun Dome.
“It was a great win,” an elated interim head coach Murry Bartow said. “It’s just one, but it feels a little bit better than the other times I’ve been in here [the Sun Dome media room].”
Bartow also praised his players’ attitude throughout the losing skid.
“Their spirit is so incredibly good,” Bartow said. “Practices have been great and the energy has been good. Obviously, we’ve lost a lot of games in a row, but they never pout or feel sorry for themselves. We knew at some point we’d get one and tonight’s the night.”
The win not only represented Bartow’s first since taking over as interim head coach on January 3rd, but also snapped a 12-game losing streak for the Bulls. USF’s last victory came on December 22nd against Delaware.
Junior guard Geno Thorpe lead all scorers with 22 points in 35 minutes off the bench.
“It’s a relief,” Thorpe said. “Our hard work in practice is paying off.”
While Bartow wouldn’t explain specifically why Thorpe wasn’t in the starting five, he did hint at the reasoning being academic.
“There’s certain things academically that I’m not going to tolerate,” Bartow said. “We want our guys to be at every class. [Thorpe] is really doing well academically, but he slipped on one class and when you slip, you don’t start.”
USF held ECU scoreless for 4:30 at the end of the first half and 2:36 to begin the second half for a total of 7:06. In the meantime, USF went on a 15-0 scoring run as they built as much as a 15-point lead.
Another thing that helped USF was a lack of turnovers. USF only turned the ball over nine times, which was a season low for the Bulls.
“Any team that turns it over a lot is going to get beat,” Bartow said. “You show me a team that has nine or ten turnovers, I’m going to show you a winning team. You show me a team that has 18 or 19, I’m going to show you a team that probably loses.”
Things don’t get any easier for USF as they host Cincinnati (22-2, 11-0 The American) on Wednesday night at the Sun Dome.
“Fortunately we’ve got another easy one coming up on Wednesday against Cincinnati,” Bartow joked.
Easy opponent or not, USF will look to start a winning streak, which is something they haven’t been able to attempt in almost two months.