Tuesday, February 27, 2024

February Fireworks at USF

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Every time I return to the University of South Florida Campus in Tampa, I get chills down my spine.

On Sunday, February 18, 2024, this was a day that I’ll remember for numerous reasons.

It’s been over 30 years since I stepped foot in the Sun Dome (Yuengling Center) as I earned my BA Degree on this Floor in what went down as one of the greatest days of my life.

When I was a student at USF, Lee Rose was the head basketball coach and I used to go to a lot of games. In fact, there was no football team so our Homecoming Event was during a Men’s Basketball Game.

At the time, we we drew crowds of 2-3,000 per-game and even made an NIT Appearance under Rose. At the time, I wasn’t covering the Bulls so I sat in the student section. But in the 1990’s, when I started covering the Detroit Pistons, I would get to know Rose as he was an assistant coach in the NBA.

The best player on the Bulls team was Charlie Bradley who went on to play for the Sacramento Kings.

On this day, once I stepped in the building, My photographer Candy Ebling was taking photos of me everywhere she could as I was reminiscing about the good old days. 

When I went to the Media Lounge, I met Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly and we did an interview together which will be a future story.

When the schedule came out, I circled this date on my calendar as the FAU Owls were coming to town.

Little would I know that the Owls and Bulls would be a nationally televised game at Noon ET on ESPN. Entering the contest, FAU was 20-5 (10-2 AAC) and USF was 18-5 (11-1 AAC).

The Owls were in the 2023 Final Four under coach Dusty May, who has complied a 121-65 mark for the Boca Raton, FL school. Meanwhile, USF Head Coach Amir Abdur Rahim is in his first year at the helm for USF.

USF leads the series 14-2 and is 10-0 vs FAU in Tampa. The last two times these squads met was on 12-29-19 when the Bulls clipped the Owls 60-58 in Tampa.

What would we see between two teams that are now rivals in the American Athletic Conference?

First of all, USF set an attendance record of 10,659 and they gave the crowd plenty to cheer about.

In the first half, it looked like the Bulls were going to run the Owls out of the building by taking a 46-31 lead. The crowd was chanting “Overrated” not showing respect for their opponent. At one point, the Bulls had a 25-point lead.

But that didn’t phase FAU as the Owls outscored USF 55-44 in the second half. That wouldn’t be enough as the Bulls held on to win the contest 90-86. USF won it’s 11th straight game. USF now leads the overall series 15-2 and 11-0 at home.

Leading the way for USF was Corey Walker with eight points and 10 rebounds. Selton Miguel amassed a career high 25 points and Chris Youngblood had 23 points. Youngblood did his damage at the free throw line going 12-13.

FAU had a balanced attack led by center Vladislav Goldin, who had 23 points and was perfect at the free throw line going 7-7. Future NBA player Johnell Davis had 20 points, five assists and six rebounds. He was 6-6 at the charity stripe. Alijah Martin had 17 points while Nick Boyd had 16.

When the contest was over, both coaches demonstrated mutual respect for one another and are aware they could meet again in the AAC Tournament.

I pressed Abdur-Rahim on whether he felt the crowd chanting “Overrated” fueled FAU’s comeback as you’re going to see in the enclosed video.

As for May, he said the loss stung but was proud of the effort his team displayed as you’re going to see at his post-game press-conference.

Both coaches know that there is a lot of basketball ahead for their teams.

The Owls rebounded on Thursday in Boca Raton by defeating SMU 80-70 but lost a heart-breaker Sunday, 78-74 on the road in Memphis. FAU hosts Tulane on Saturday at Noon and this contest can be seen on ESPN U.

As for USF, their latest wins over UTSA in Texas 66-61 and a home triumph over SMU has the Bulls winning streak at 13 games. The Bulls are looking to extend that streak to 14 games on Saturday at Charlotte.

Before you hit March Madness, there has been a lot February Fireworks and the plot will only get a lot more interesting in the coming weeks.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at Southfloridatribune@Gmail.com and you can see his broadcasts by subscribing to the South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel at no cost.

His new book, “Lessons From The Microphone” is available on Amazon and Kindle. This book emphasizes changes in Old School Media vs New School Media. Everyone can learn from this book.





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