USF 76, SFA 75: James Holmes' free throw with 3.8 seconds to go is the difference for the Bulls.
By THOMAS SIMONETTI
Published November 21, 2004
TAMPA - James Holmes hit the first of two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining to lift USF to a 76-75 season-opening college basketball victory over Stephen F. Austin Saturday night.
Terrence Leather of Robinson High scored 20 and Brian Swift was 5-for-5 from 3-point range and finished with 19 points for USF.
The Bulls have won five straight season openers. The game marked the Bulls' first meeting against SFA.
USF never trailed after taking a 41-37 halftime lead, but the Lumberjacks tied it at 75 on a pair of free throws by Rodrigo Segantim with 37.4 seconds left.
With less than 10 seconds to play, Leather missed a shot and Holmes was fouled as he went for the rebound. The guard converted one of his two shots. Lumberjacks forward Anthony Paez missed a halfcourt shot as time expired.
"Oh, man, it was a tough one but we found a way to win. We found a way to close it out," said Leather, a starter from last season who sat out the first five minutes.
USF's leading scorer and rebounder from a year ago said he was unable to start because he was dizzy during the shootaround. USF coach Robert McCullum said Leather sat out because of a coach's decision.
"It was a hard-fought game," McCullum said. "It's early in the year and we've got a long way to go. We just made enough plays at the end to win the game."
Marlyn Bryant, coming off the bench after he missed most of the past two seasons with knee injuries, finished with 11 points. Center Brandon Brigman led the Bulls with eight rebounds. Lumberjacks guard Marcus Clark led all scorers with 25 points.
"I was feeling it and I just kept shooting it, and it just kept going in," Swift said. "Like Coach told us in the locker room, we just have to get tougher as a team - physically and mentally. Sometimes things don't go our way like we planned and we have to improvise. We're not ready to do that yet."
The Lumberjacks have lost three consecutive season openers. SFA was picked to finish fourth in the Southland Conference in a preseason poll. The Lumberjacks have only two starters from last season's 21-9 team.
Up next for the Bulls is a non-Conference USA game against Prairie View A&M at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the USF Sun Dome.