Once again, a man named Jordan saved the day.
Raphael Jordan, that's him to the right, is a 66 percent free throw shooter, but he was 100 percent when his team had the best shot at ending an unwanted streak.
With .8 seconds remaining in Thursday night's road game against 4-23 Wagner, Jordan was fouled on his way to the hoop. He sunk both to end Bryant's 26-game losing streak to start the season and end the possibility of setting a record.
Had the Bulldogs not won a game this season, they would've ended the year 0-30. Never before had futility like that been reached. Or achieved. (Can you achieve futility?)
Someone tried to reverse-jinx Bryant — and succeeded.
"He's played a ton as a freshman, so at this point in the year he should be comfortable," Tim O'Shea told me Friday. "But still, the fact is, this should give him a lot of confidence, because no matter what happens the rest of his career at Bryant, he can say, 'Hey I made a game-winning shot.'"
The streak this season put Bryant on the map — for all the wrong reasons, of course. Now, they fade into the ether. Who knows when we'll hear from this school again. A few years ago, it was a powerhouse in Division II. But it's made the transition to DI. O'Shea spoke with me about the culmination of an entire season coming together Thursday night and how he's pacing himself with process of remolding a program.
Before we get to that, I did want to share with you a video Will Leitch took. Kind of incredible that New York Magazine's venture around the NYC-area hoops programs coincided with witnessing the end of Bryant's streak.
Wagner's Josh Thompson mistook the shot clock for the game clock and fired off a not-so-much buzzer-beater ... that clanked into the ceiling of the gym.
That. Was. ... Fitting.
O'Shea explained that his team finally had the karma come back its way, evidenced by the video above.
"It was just one of those nights that plays went our way that hadn't gone our way all season," he said. "Fouls went our way. It's good for the seniors, because, for them ... there's no next year. I was particularly happy they got a chance to win. They don't get a chance to play for an NCAA tournament bid."
They don't get to play not because Bryant wasn't good enough — the school isn't eligible. It's part of a five-year process of leaping up to the big leagues. Because of this, Bryant has had to play with players who were recruited to play Division II.
"I had a pretty good idea what we were up against going into this transition. So, since I have a long contract, I took the long view of this," O'Shea said. "I knew we were going to struggle to win any games. But I knew we had difference-makers sitting out, too. There isn't a move I'd take back. There's a real element when you take over a job like this that you have to stay the course. ... Whether we won or lost last night, my attitude wouldn't have changed."
But O'Shea had pride in his voice when talking about all the lumps this team has taken. Scheduling big-time opponents is never easy for schools like Davidson and Butler, so think how long it will take Bryant before it can even get a BCS school to accept to cut a check to a program that's an RPI killer. He's scheduled as tough as he could, hoping it pays off not even next year, but three or four years from today.
"Our schedule has been a full D-I schedule each year since we crossed over," O'Shea said. "We haven't thrown in any non-Division I, like a lot of schools will do. We played our first 16 of the 20 games on the road, and the truth of the matter is we knew a lot of games would be tough, if not impossible."
Now, this team will no longer be the answer to a trivia question. It can head into next year with only one more season of restriction on qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
"[The losing streak] had become a little of a distraction," O'Shea sad. "One of my big concerns was, if we didn't win a game this season, [it could carry over] next year. ... The burden of the streak would've carried over into part of next season."
That's no longer an issue. It's rare when one regular season win can carry this amount of weight.