USF Claims First-Ever BIG EAST Win

The University of South Florida men's basketball team capped its 2005-06 campaign with the program's first-ever BIG EAST victory, downing No. 20 Georgetown 63-57 in the season finale Saturday night at the Sun Dome. Prior to the game, seniors James Holmes and Solomon Jones were honored by the team and both played key roles in the squad's historic victory.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The University of South Florida showed up for its season finale against No. 20 Georgetown with one thing in mind -- proving people who think the Bulls are in over their heads in the Big East wrong.

A 63-56 victory may not change many opinions, however it did enable Solomon Jones and his teammates to avoid becoming just the second team in the last 25 years to go winless in league play Saturday night.

"People were projecting we wouldn't win a game. We got together and decided we weren't going to go out like that," said the 6-foot-10 Jones after scoring 17 of his career-high 23 points in the second half.

"We wish we could have won more games. But getting this one means a lot, just to prove to people we can play with these guys. We can win."

Georgetown (19-8, 10-6) lost for the fourth time in its last six games and wasted an opportunity to clinch the fourth seed and a first-round bye in next week's conference tournament.

"It's extremely disappointing," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. "We have to bounce back and move on."

Jones delivered 10 points in the final 6:41, including a pair of dunks that helped USF pull away from a 44-44 tie to a 55-50 lead. The closest Georgetown got after that was three, hurting itself with a shot clock violation, an offensive foul and two other costly turnovers in the last five minutes.

"We don't have any excuses," Thompson said. "We didn't play as well as we should."

USF, which hadn't not won since beating Loyola Marymount 54-50 on Dec. 23, gave plenty of teams problems during their long skid, including Georgetown, which held off the Bulls 50-47 at home on Jan. 17.

USF (7-22, 1-15) also put a scare in West Virginia and Villanova, played Seton Hall tough twice and gave second-ranked Connecticut some problems before faltering late in a 66-53 loss last Wednesday night.

"If no one knew our record, no one could look at us and tell that we had not won a (conference) game," USF coach Robert McCullum said.

"They've been an interesting team all year. After one disappointment after another, they've come out for practice the next day ready to go to work. It really says a lot about them as individuals, as people."

Jones was 9-for-10 from the field and finished with nine rebounds. Melvin Buckley had 12 points and McHugh Mattis added 11 for South Florida, which led by as many as 10 before Georgetown finished the opening half with a 10-0 run to take a 31-30 lead.

The Bulls took the lead for good on Mattis' 3-point play and the crowd of 6,088 sensed the Bulls might be able to avoid joining Miami (1993-94) as the only teams in the last 25 years to go winless in the Big East when Chris Capko stole a pass, dribbled the length of the court and fed Jones for the dunk that made it 55-50.

"It feels good to not have to talk about what we could have done to win and talk about what we did to win," Jones said.

Fellow senior James Holmes, who had 10 points, agreed.

"You could see the confidence out there," Holmes said. "We knew we were going to get it done."

Brandon Bowman and Ashanti Cook led Georgetown with 11 points apiece. Jeff Green and Jonathan Wallace added 10 for the Hoyas, who had 16 turnovers and went 20-of-27 from the foul line.

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