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USF 81, Delaware 53: It’s A Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus/Whatever Miracle!

Men’s basketball won by 28 points! Really!

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Our men’s basketball team is much like your least favorite ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. They can’t do anything good for you or make you happy, so you might as well just enjoy watching them suffer, right? Right. But also much like your ex, just when you’ve decided to move on, they decide they want to show up and be the good person.

What’s worse is when it’s during the holidays. Tonight the Bulls pulled off an 81-53 win over Delaware at the Sun Dome. And a 28-point win after losing their best player two days ago is enough to make me take them back. **sigh**

“We have a lot of stuff going on right now, with the whole Jahmal (McMurray) thing and everything,” junior guard Geno Thorpe said. “But it’s been a positive mood. We’re just trying to move forward and keep the train pushing.

“It feels good. Our whole team is in shape, everybody’s able to get out there and produce and give it all they got until the next man comes in and steps up.”

Sophomore forward Luis Santos earned his first career start in place of junior center Ruben Guerrero and put up the first points of the game. The Bulls soon went on a 7-0 run to take a 13-2 lead in the first five minutes and never really looked back. They held the lead the entire game, and that right there is a gift to us all from basketball Santa.

With 13:35 to play the Bulls subbed in junior guard Jake Bodway. A minute later that boy hit a three-pointer, and TURNT THINGS ALL THE WAY UP. The bench was beyond lit every time he scored, and this is a very accurate description of what went down in the Dome:

(side note: the USFMBB Twitter was POPPIN’ tonight with all the Christmas GIFs you could ever need. Shout out to Steven, goin’ out with a bang.)

“Can’t say enough about how Geno played,” head coach Orlando Antigua said. “And when Geno picked up the foul how Jake was able to come in and stabilize us for a little bit. I’m really happy and excited for the kids from top to bottom.”

The Bulls held a solid 43-28 lead after the first 20 minutes, and the Blue Hens only hit one of their last 10 field goal attempts to close the half shooting just 26.5 percent. (Nice D.) USF shot an impressive 59 percent on the half, and outrebounded Delaware 23-16.

But you know, this team generally plays a nice first half, and horrendous second half. So at this point it was safe to hold all plans on taking them back until after they really proved themselves to be worthy in the second half.

But guess what? The best possible present ever* came snowing in. That was corny but whatever, y’all are Scrooges. Get in the spirit. Anyway, the Bulls started the second half strong and stretched the lead to 20. Back-to-back threes by Thorpe and freshman forward Malik Fitts, followed by a Fitts dunk made it appear that these guys were actually having... dare I say it... fun... until the Blue Hens held them to a 5:30 scoring drought where they went 1-for-7.

* - well, for all of us who had given up any chance of hope.

A fast break layup by freshman forward Tulio Da Silva ended the drought, and the Bulls used it to go on another 10-0 run over three minutes. They worked their way up to a 66-40 lead, which had been the largest lead of any game this season, and put the icing on the cake with back to back SLAMS by junior forward Bo Zeigler. (Pretty sure he can actually fly. Up for discussion.)

“The biggest thing is we wanted to take care of the ball,” Antigua said. “And I thought we did that.”

Then, the best thing happened. It’s when you KNOW that your team has sealed the deal. Freshman walk-ons Yito Alvarado and Henry Beard hit the hardwood for their collegiate debuts. Yes, the USFHVCs, or Human Victory Cigars. And the Bulls finished with a glorious win that they DIDN’T let almost slip away. Relish it.

“I was happy for those guys,” Thorpe said. “They work hard. They come to the gym just like us and work on their game no matter if they’re first off the bench or last off the bench. So I was excited for them.”

Thorpe and Da Silva each finished with 18 points. It was a career high for Tulio, who also had eight rebounds and two assists.

“I think Santa was good to me today,” Antigua said. “And to us.”

You’re dang right, Coach!

The Bulls will head to Greenville, NC next Wednesday to open conference play against East Carolina. Tipoff is at 7:00.

“We’re going to take each opportunity to go out and try to get one percent better,” Antigua said. “We try not to make excuses. We deal with reality, and we roll up our sleeves. (We) work every day to try to get a little bit better and do our best and see where the chips fall.”