Jose Fernandez vividly remembers Hurricane Andrew in Miami some 20 years ago, being huddled in a closet with his mother and brother as winds blew in the sliding-glass door in their home.
Friday night's massive winter storm seemed familiar to USF's women's basketball coach as he listened to the howling wind from his hotel room while bunkered down in Providence, R.I.
"It was something you couldn't really describe," said Fernandez, whose team flew in Thursday to arrive before the storm. "I felt hurricane winds in my hotel room, howling winds. You looked out, and it was just white. It was like a hurricane with snow."
Saturday morning, the sightseer in him went downstairs, wanting to see the snow piled up, and it was high enough that he couldn't turn the revolving door in the hotel lobby. The Bulls' game at Providence, originally bumped from 2 p.m. Saturday to 7:30 p.m., was shifted again to 1 p.m. Sunday to allow for better cleanup; that meant the Bulls were stuck in a hotel for more than 24 hours leading up to the game.
The Bulls worked out on treadmills and elliptical machines in the Renaissance fitness room; with a limited hotel staff, they ate in five-person shifts.
"It was pretty nuts," Fernandez said.
The Bulls played poorly in the first half ("We sleepwalked," Fernandez said) and held just a 28-23 lead. What followed was like a change of seasons: a dominant second half in which the Bulls shot 61 percent from the field and led by as many as 36 points before closing out an 82-54 rout.
"It was like a racehorse that took off," said Fernandez, whose team is 16-6 and 5-4 in the Big East, needing a strong push in the final seven regular-season games to make a case for the NCAA Tournament.
"Our kids know what's at stake. Our backs are against the wall. We've got to get to 20 wins and finish in the top six in the league to get to the tournament."
The weather woes weren't over for the Bulls, who couldn't fly out of Rhode Island and took a four-hour bus ride to New York, staying overnight and waking up at 5:15 a.m. Monday to fly to Tampa. Landing at 11:30, they practiced 45 minutes later, watched video and sent players home for much-needed rest.
USF had been scheduled to play St. John's in the Sun Dome on Tuesday, but the Big East granted its request to move the game to 4 p.m. today, the early tipoff required to honor a TV commitment.