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College basketball

Playing with familiar fire

USF faces aggressive style in C-USA opener: UAB is run by Nolan Richardson disciple.

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 8, 2003

South Florida opens its Conference USA schedule tonight against Nolan Richardson and Arkansas.

Er, make that against Mike Anderson and UAB. It's an easy mistake to make, as the Blazers play the same 40-Minutes-of-Hell style made famous by the Razorbacks under Richardson.

Virtually the same. Anderson coached under Richardson for 17 seasons, and things tend to stick after that long. Anderson, in his first season at UAB, has the Blazers attacking -- and succeeding. UAB (8-3) enters tonight's game averaging 79.6 points.

"They're extremely assertive. They're going to push it and make you react to them," USF coach Seth Greenberg said. "They're very aggressive, very athletic and they get a lot of ball pressure from their guards. (Morris) Finley and (Eric) Bush can guard.

"They're a version of Arkansas."

Finley, a swift, 5-foot-11 left-hander, has been the primary beneficiary of Anderson's speed infusion. His scoring average has jumped from 11.4 to 18.2. The next six scorers average between 7.2 and 9.8 points. Anderson has lengthened the bench to sustain the high tempo, as 11 Blazers average more than nine minutes.

UAB will push the pace, and tonight's circumstances also will provide a jolt of energy. The start of the conference season typically yields a noticeable upgrade in intensity.

"There's a different sense of urgency when you get to league play," Greenberg said. "The bar gets raised."

With four of the next five games on the road, including trips to Marquette (8-3), Memphis (9-2) and surprising East Carolina (10-2), a win tonight might be necessary if USF hopes to get off to a good start in C-USA.

The Bulls are coming off an 82-70 loss Friday at Colorado State, which dropped USF to 7-4 and 0-4 on the road. CSU (11-3) shot an astounding 63 percent from the field. Just two USF opponents shot as high as 40 percent in the Bulls' first 10 games.

UAB is No. 72 in the RPI rankings, the measurement used by the NCAA Tournament committee to help to choose its field, and USF is No. 88. Both are among a large pool of schools hoping to begin building the next tier of postseason credentials this week.

"I'm pleased with the way we played in the preseason," said Greenberg, referring to the nonconference schedule. "There's eight zillion teams that are right where we are. The parity is mind-boggling.

"The second season begins. Let the games begin."

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