The last time the University of South Florida men's basketball team played Providence, the Bulls pulled off a dramatic come-from-behind win that kick-started a school-record four-game Big East win streak and propelled them into the national spotlight.
But after losing four of its past five games going into Saturday, USF (17-11, 7-9) is hoping its dramatic 99-93 win against the Friars (12-16, 4-12) in front of a Sun Dome crowd of 5,061 will send the Bulls on a similar win streak.
"This is a game we had to have," USF coach Stan Heath said. "I sure hope this is another start of a run."
Like the first meeting, the Bulls had to rally to win.
After trailing 82-73 at the 7:37 mark of the second half, USF battled back for a 92-90 lead on a Chris Howard free throw with 1:23 remaining.
The score stayed that way until Friars guard Sharaud Curry nailed a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to put Providence ahead 93-92.
"As soon as they hit that 3 I saw Chris looking and I said, 'Let it go,'" Heath said. "Normally, you might want to call a timeout and set up the last play, but I said, 'No, let that go,' because I knew if Dominique (Jones) got it and it was one-on-one or possibly one-on-two probably something good was going to happen."
Jones proved Heath prophetic as Howard threw a half-court pass to Jones, who scored on a layup and was fouled by Curry. Curry proceeded to slam the ball down in disgust, drawing a technical foul with 14 seconds remaining.
"They hit a big 3 ... and when shots are made like that everyone just stops," said Howard, who scored 20 points. "So I was thinking hurry and get the ball because I know Dominique is on that island ready to go in transition. I saw him on my side and threw him the ball and he does what he does in transition. The guy is hard to stop when he has a full burst of steam. He got fouled and finished the play and the rest is history."
Jones, who had 26 points and nine rebounds, put the game away as he hit all three free throws for a 97-93 lead.
Bulls forward Augustus Gilchrist finished with 21 points and six rebounds.
"It was good to see Gilchrist give us some good production," Heath said.