Behind a 14-0 run in the second half, Memphis wins its seventh straight, 73-66 over the Bulls.
By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2003
TAMPA -- It was South Florida's most glorious moment of the season and virtual nirvana for Bulls fans.
A 13-0 surge in the middle of second half Saturday catapulted USF into the lead on national television (ESPN) against one of the nation's hottest teams, Memphis.
Moments later, it was old news.
The Tigers quelled the pandemonium and went back in front with a Sun Dome-silencing 14-0 run, and they held on for a 73-66 win.
"I'm disappointed. I expected to win that game," coach Seth Greenberg said. "I thought we did enough good things to win the game. But we didn't find a way to win, and that's a little discouraging."
Memphis won its seventh straight. USF dropped to 13-11, 6-7. The Tigers, coming off an 80-73 win Wednesday at No. 4 Louisville, continued an impressive trend: Louisville was unbeaten at home, USF was 12-1.
The game pivoted decisively with USF leading 50-47 with 6:35 left. Over the next three minutes, Memphis made three consecutive 3s, converted a three-point play, made two free throws and held USF scoreless.
"When you've got the lead, the next thing you've got to do is get stops," Greenberg said. "We lost our focus and didn't contest shots, and we paid for it."
Memphis overcame 21-of-66 shooting (31.8 percent) against USF's 3-2 and 1-2-2 zone defenses by committing only nine turnovers, making 23 of 27 free throws and holding USF to 39 percent shooting (23-of-59).
"I love it," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "I absolutely, emphatically love winning games when you shoot 31 percent, because that means you guarded, you didn't turn it over and you made free throws.
"There's no other way to win the game."
The Tigers were 5-of-24 on 3s before John Grice (team highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds) made the first and Anthony Rice the next two to spark the 14-0 run for a 61-50 lead with four minutes left.
"Not locating John Grice and Rice was our mistake. That was an emphasis (in practice)," guard Jimmy Baxter said. "It was a miscommunication."
USF trailed 32-24 at halftime, setting up the wildly fluctuating second half. The Bulls scored the first eight to tie it at 32, Memphis scored the next seven and USF responded with the 13-0 run for its biggest lead 45-39.
A follow-slam by Gerrick Morris put the Bulls up 47-41 with fewer than 10 minutes to go, but USF scored five over the next six-plus minutes.
"We got good shots," Greenberg said. "During that stretch we got guys freed up with room and rhythm, with their feet underneath them, shots we'd take any night. We left about 15 to 20 points on the court."
The loss drops the Bulls from contention in C-USA's National Division and diminishes USF's hopes for a postseason bid.
USF center Will McDonald, playing with a heavily taped broken right (shooting) thumb, had team highs of 21 points (7-of-15 shooting) and 11 rebounds.
"They hit some real important 3s," McDonald said. "They started feeling comfortable and we got out of synch."
Backup USF point guard Brian Swift played 30 minutes and had 15 points, five assists and no turnovers.
Memphis' Chris Massie had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and guard Antonio Burks, who did not play in USF's 75-74 win Jan. 18 at Memphis, had 11 points and eight assists.