That game felt a lot like the way USF games were going down the stretch last season and into the NCAA Tournament. To wit:
1. Come out and start the game pretty well. Javontae Hawkins, who is emerging more and more each game, scored eight points in the first segment of the game, and USF jumped out on top 10-5.
2. Other team answers and wipes out the lead. Georgetown scored the next nine points and went up 14-10 on a dunk by Nate Lubick.
3. USF goes ice cold shooting the ball in the late stages of the first half. The Bulls took a lot more three-pointers than they usually do. But they missed almost all of them in the first half -- 1-for-14 overall, and they missed their first 13 from behind the arc. Overall, USF shot only 31% in the first 20 minutes.
4. Other team builds up a lead of their own. After USF tied the game at 16, they only scored four points for the next seven minutes. Meanwhile the Hoyas (who shot 60% in the first half), got some momentum going and their lead grew to as much as 11 just before halftime.
5. Salvage the half with free throws. On USF's last possession of the half, Lubick took a really bad foul on Jawanza Poland while he was shooting a three. Poland made all three from the line to cut the lead to eight. (Anthony Collins almost threw one in from half court at the buzzer.)
6. Start the second half like a house on fire, make a bunch of shots, take the lead. All the shots that weren't going in for the Bulls in the first half started dropping to begin the second half. USF made 7 out of 9 from three-point range in an early 23-7 burst to erase another double-digit deficit and take a 46-41 lead.
7. Go back and forth for a while. USF's lead never disappeared and got to as big as seven points in the middle of the second half.
8. Forget how to score down the stretch. Hawkins flipped in a crazy up-and-under basket at the 6:46 mark that ended up being USF's last made field goal. Poland hit two free throws with 3:40 to go that gave USF a 59-54 lead. But they didn't score again until there were three seconds to go.
9. Keep the other team from scoring down the stretch. The Hoyas cut the lead to 59-58 with 2:20 to play, but they didn't score again. Otto Porter (who scored 21 points) missed a shot, and then on the next-to-last possession, after John Thompson III called not one but TWO timeouts to set up a play, Porter lost the ball on the right wing and about four Bulls combined to recover and get it to Collins.
10. Salt it away with free throws. Collins hit two free throws to give USF a three-point lead, and then Porter bricked a half-court heave. (That was the best shot they could get because they didn't spread out and try to inbound the ball further down the court. Not JT3's best coaching performance.)
11. Time for a party.
We can look at this more a little later on, but that wraps up an especially tough five-game stretch for the Bulls. I had them pegged for 2-3 at best before the season started, thinking Syracuse and Louisville were the two best teams in the league (which they are, and it's not even close), and knowing what a bad matchup Georgetown has been for them lately. So 1-4, while it looks bad, isn't far off expectations.
Can the Bulls still scrape out a postseason appearance somewhere? Figure they need 18 wins to have a shot. They would need to get to 8-10 in conference play, and win one game in New York. Looking at it that way, they really need to beat Seton Hall on Wednesday night, because there aren't as many gimmes as there used to be on USF's schedule. No mirror games with DePaul and Providence anymore.