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The Voodoo Five Eulogies: USF Basketball Gets Wardled In 2000

Brian Wardle hurt us so bad we had to name something after him.

Brian Wardle, now coaching for Wisconsin-Green Bay, with that same horrible haircut and doing some kind of Happy Hands Club thing.
Brian Wardle, now coaching for Wisconsin-Green Bay, with that same horrible haircut and doing some kind of Happy Hands Club thing.
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

War-dled (v.) - to be inexplicably beaten by an opponent that has exactly one good player

USF's 1999-2000 basketball team was a modest success. Seth Greenberg hadn't completely finished building his team, but the pieces were falling into place. They scratched out 17 wins in a solid Conference USA and slipped into the NIT for their first postseason bid in five years. This was back when the NIT draw was rigged towards teams that could sell tickets, and that led USF to have to play New Mexico, because what else is there to do in Albuquerque in March but go to a basketball game, and it was on TV at like midnight, and of course the Bulls lost a close game, and at one point near the end I swear Seth got so pissed off at a call that he did a snarling 360-degree pivot and spun himself down into a chair while simultaneously trying to rip off his suit jacket. But I digress.

The Bulls placed a priority on winning their home games that season. The players had T-shirts printed up that said "OWN THE DOME" in green and gold block letters and wore them underneath their jerseys. And up until the Marquette game on February 24, 2000, they had won all 11 of their games at the Sun Dome. They beat Wisconsin, who ended up in the Final Four that season. They beat FSU easily. They won a really wacky game against Charlotte where Bulls killer Jobey Thomas scored 28 points in 28 minutes and USF guard Cedric Smith grabbed 17 rebounds (one of the most illogical stats in school history). Sure, the Bulls were dismal on the road like they usually were, but home games at that point were pretty much a lock, and a middling Marquette team didn't look like a threat to break the streak.

And once the game started, the Golden Eagles really didn't look like a threat. USF used a pair of big early runs (11-0 and 12-3) to build a 13-point lead. Altron Jackson, in the starting lineup because Chonsey Asbury was hurt, scored 15 points in the first half. Marquette didn't shoot that well and had a whole bunch of turnovers early on to help USF stake themselves to that big lead.

Here's the thing about that Marquette team. This was Tom Crean's first season there, and he had a giant pile of leftovers from Mike Deane. There was no Dwyane Wade yet, or Steve Novak, or whatever Diener brother played there (I could never keep them all straight). In fact there were only two players on that team worth a damn, and one of them, John Cliff, had an off night. The other one was a slow, gangly, pasty, buzz-cut 6'5" guard named Brian Wardle.

The Golden Eagles got the lead down to 8 at halftime, but USF opened up the second half on an 8-0 run. Jackson scored and got fouled right before the under-16 timeout to give the Bulls a 47-31 lead. At this point Tron got a little carried away and basically did the Snoopy dance in front of the basket. Naturally this ended up being the turning point of the game.

The Bulls scored a total of 13 points for the rest of the game. Marquette finally got the tempo slowed down to the crawl they preferred. And that pasty buzz-cut kid Wardle turned into Jimmy Freakin' Chitwood. He outscored USF by himself for the rest of the game. Hell, he outscored USF's post-dance output by himself in a single burst. The Golden Eagles went on a 17-7 run to get back in the game and Wardle scored 14 of them, including four threes.

USF limped towards the under-four timeout still leading 58-55. Then someone fouled Wardle shooting a three (whoops), and of course he knocked down all three to tie the game. He had NBA Jam flames coming off his body at this point, it was just absurd. On USF's next possession, B.B. Waldon, who had been killing Marquette at the rim all night, fouled out on a charge. In a game with a grand total of 26 fouls, Waldon had been literally the only player on either team in foul trouble. Yet somehow USF's only consistent scorer that night was gone.

The last four minutes were agonizing. A Cordell Henry three were the last points Marquette would score. And it was still enough to win because USF only scored two. On the final play, Jackson got the ball and dribbled it off his foot. Game over. Marquette 61, USF 60. I think I might have thrown my pom-pom on the court at the buzzer from the student section, or I might have just blacked out in a fit of rage. I really don't remember.

Brian Wardle scored 31 points while the rest of the Golden Eagles combined scored 30. Wardle was out there with a bunch of stiffs, and he looked like a stiff himself, and he single-handedly won the game anyway. Wardled.

Since then, there's actually been a number of gangly stiffs who have killed the Bulls, nearly all of whom played for Notre Dame. This was the original, though. It's 14 years later and I still have a grudge towards Brian Wardle. When I found out he was coaching at Wisconsin-Green Bay a couple years ago, I instinctively started rooting against the Phoenix. I couldn't help myself. Sorry I'm not sorry.