Blazers' quick strikes leave Bulls a step behind

USF watches a close game slip away as players from up and down the UAB roster contribute.

By CARY ESTES Special to the Times
Published December 28, 2006

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Blazers no longer use the "40 Minutes of Hell" style of play favored by former coach Mike Anderson, but they still can get hot in a hurry.

USF felt the heat Wednesday night at Bartow Arena, as Alabama-Birmingham used a run at the end of the first half and a flurry of 3-pointers to start the second to break open what had been a close game en route to a 78-62 victory.

The loss was the fourth in a row for the Bulls (7-5), and it was their eighth straight in the series with UAB (8-5).

After falling behind 19-12 midway through the first half, USF went on a 9-2 run to tie it at 21. The Blazers called timeout to regroup then closed the half outscoring USF 14-4.

A 3-pointer by freshman Taurus Dortch with seven seconds left made him the seventh UAB player to score during the final seven minutes, giving the Blazers a 35-25 halftime lead.

"That was a crucial stretch," USF coach Robert McCullum said. "We tied the game, and we felt very good at that point. We were keeping it close, then we had the ball with 45 seconds left, didn't get a good look, and UAB came down and rattled in a 3 to go up 10. That gave them even more momentum going into halftime."

It carried over into the second half, especially for UAB guard Maurice Gibbs. After taking only one shot and scoring no points in the first half, he sank three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second.

Then forward Lawrence Kinnard got into the act, sinking two 3-pointers in less than two minutes, and suddenly the Bulls trailed 52-37.

"We tried to come out in the second half and give them a different look and pressure the ball more, and unfortunately we didn't do a good job of matching up and finding the open guys," McCullum said. "And then they got on a roll."

Senior forward Melvin Buckley, who led USF with 16 points, said the Bulls were so determined to contain UAB's leading scorers (Paul Delaney and Wen Mukubu) that they failed to guard Gibbs and Kinnard.

"Our goal was to come in and make somebody else beat us, and somebody else stepped up and beat us," Buckley said. "We weren't rotating, and we left guys open. I know their eyes lit up when they saw that open space, and they made some big shots. That's what put them over the hump."

Junior center Kentrell Gransberry had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, giving him his fourth double double in the past five games. Senior forward McHugh Mattis added 12 points.

UAB 78, USF 62