The Tampa Bulls started off their campaign for The Basketball Tournament's $2 million prize with a bang, downing 12-seed Seven City Grain 94-88 in a thrilling game.
The fifth-seeded Bulls, composed entirely of USF basketball alumni, trailed through much of the first half before catching fire from the floor and riding 19 unanswered points to a 42-31 halftime lead. Dominique Jones was the ringleader, dropping 30 points along with seven rebounds and five assists.
DoJo was fantastic, but the Bulls needed a full team effort to shake the scrappy Seven City Grain squad. They managed to cut the Bulls’ lead to one point in the second half before a 15-2 run gave the higher seeds a comfortable double-digit advantage. Seven City Grain made another run in the game's final minutes behind a barrage of threes from Steven Pledger, who made 10 of 19 from behind the arc on his way to a game-high 33 points. But a Pledger three banged off the rim with 30 seconds to go and the Bulls up 85-81. Jones grabbed the board and went eight for eight from the line down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
It was a joy to watch former USF stars back on the court. A freshly-cornrowed Anthony Collins ran the point for the Bulls for most of the game, while Hugh Robertson was his typical tremendous self on defense and provided a spark from behind the arc. Will McDonald, the Bulls' oldest player, turned back the clock and was unstoppable in the paint at times. Solomon Jones, a late addition to the roster and the Tampa Bull with the most NBA experience, helped out on the block as well.
Tampa Bulls also won without Corey Allen Jr., who was in uniform but did not play (he’s wearing #4 in this postgame clip):
Tampa Bulls advance to the Round of 32, where they'll play the fourth-seeded Kentucky Kings tomorrow at 11 a.m. The Kings, largely composed of Western Kentucky alumni, will be a stiffer test for the Bulls. You can tune in on ESPN3 to watch the Bulls fight to get one step closer to $2 million.