Signature win: Bulls knock off No. 19 Louisville
USF picked up the signature victory they've been seeking to add to their NCAA Tournament resume, knocking off No. 19 Louisville with a 58-51 win on Wednesday night.
The Bulls, now 19-11 and 12-5 in the Big East, are that much closer to their first NCAA berth in 20 years -- they close the season at home against West Virginia. In the Big East's history, 69 teams have won 12 conference games in the regular season and all 69 advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulls hadn't beaten Louisville as a member of the Big East, having lost 11 in a row. It's only their second-ever win at Louisville, and the first since 1998. And after totaling six Big East road wins in USF's first six seasons in the league, the Bulls have won five conference road games this season.
Is USF in the NCAA Tournament now? Opinions were divided online, with ESPN's Andy Katz tweeting that it looked USF was playing its was into the field, though CBSsports.com's Jerry Palm said he still didn't think USF had punched its ticket.
USF won with defense, matching Louisville's season low at 51 points; the Bulls led most of the game, but pulled away in the fina two minutes, getting a huge 3-pointer from Jawanza Poland, who added a shot just inside the arc with 1:19 left. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Anthony Collins combined for four free throws to extend USF's lead in the final minute.
USF has been much discussed as a bubble team in the past two weeks -- after Sunday's win against Cincinnati, ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi moved the Bulls into his projected field on Tuesday night after Xavier lost to Saint Louis. Tonight's win should give the Bulls a solid spot in the tournament, though they can reinforce that by beating West Virginia at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday.
One more note -- by beating St. John's and Louisville this season, the only remaining team that USF hasn't beaten as a member of the Big East ... is West Virginia.