TAMPA — On senior day at the Sun Dome, fate seemingly drew up USF's first field goal: an alley-oop dunk from upperclassman (Martino Brock) to upperclassman (Victor Rudd).
The ending? Well, that has been diagrammed to death lately.
For the third time in four games, the Bulls squandered a large second-half lead. The meltdown Saturday was more profound, the end more excruciating, the ensuing fan unrest more palpable.
Temple sophomore Quenton DeCosey's floater from near the right baseline at the horn helped the Owls (9-21, 4-14 American Athletic) rally from an 18-point second-half deficit for a 66-65 victory before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 4,073.
"It seems like there's been about three games in the last two or three weeks played just like that," said Bulls coach Stan Heath, whose future seems unclear with a new athletic director expected to be hired as early as this week.
"We haven't figured out how to close that thing out with the stop. That's been a tough, frustrating part."
USF enters this week's conference tournament as the No. 10 seed. The Bulls (12-19, 3-15) will try to snap an eight-game skid Wednesday night against No. 7 Rutgers.
For the green-and-gold optimist, the last four of those defeats could've gone either way. In losses to Connecticut, Rutgers and Temple, USF had second-half leads of nine, 15 and 18 points, respectively.
In Tuesday's 78-69 loss at Houston, the Bulls rallied to tie with 5:33 to go. On Saturday, they were rolling behind a high-energy defensive effort and resurgent performance off the bench from two-guard Corey Allen (team-high 18 points).
But Temple, which suited nine players and used seven, scored 30 of the game's last 41.
"I know it's frustrating when we lose games like this or games go right down to the wire. But it's a process," Heath said.
"Sometimes looking out there, you've got three freshmen and sometimes a sophomore … and they've never been here before. This time last year they were playing AAU basketball. That's the recipe for tough games and they're going to learn from it, they're going to be better."
Saturday's lesson was administered primarily by Owls guards Dalton Pepper (20 points) and Will Cummings (14 points, eight assists), who teamed for 29 of Temple's 40 second-half points.
Now, the rhetorical question stands: Will USF be able to recover from this latest collapse?
"We should be," Rudd said. "I don't know, to be honest. We should be though."