With B.B. Waldon hampered by foul trouble, USF opens its C-USA schedule with a 59-49 win over Southern Miss.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2001
TAMPA -- There were no special invitations given out, but there was a seniors-only party going on at the Sun Dome on Saturday night.
Playing the majority of the game against Southern Mississippi without junior All-America candidate B.B. Waldon, the four top seniors on the South Florida men's basketball team stepped up and took over.
Cedric Smith, Sam Sanders, Chonsey Asbury and Artha Reeves combined for 47 points to lead the Bulls to a 59-49 win over Southern Miss in their conference opener Saturday night.
Waldon spent most of the evening in foul trouble, playing just 17 minutes and scoring five points. The team's other top scorer, Altron Jackson, played 19 minutes and scored seven points. Reeves scored 12 and Asbury added six.
"This team is predominantly Altron and B.B.'s team," said Smith, who scored a team-high 15 points and had six rebounds. "That's our one and two option. We may share the captain's role, but this is their team. But when they are not clicking we have to find some other way to do it. We're seniors. We knew somebody had to step up."
"This is a team that each and every night somebody else can step up," added Sanders, who scored 14 points and had six rebounds. "It was my rotation (tonight). Next game, no telling who it will be."
The Bulls (9-4, 1-0 C-USA) held Southern Miss (10-3, 1-1) under 50 points for the first time this season and caused the Golden Eagles to commit a season-high 23 turnovers that led to 21 South Florida points.
South Florida is 8-0 when leading at halftime. The Bulls led by two at halftime, but neither team could establish a sizable lead early in the second half. The score was tied twice in the first seven minutes of the second half before South Florida took a 41-35 lead on a Sanders putback.
But Southern Miss pulled within 45-41 when Elvin Mims was fouled as he attempted a three-point basket with 8:45 left. Mims made three free throws.
From there, it was a battle to the finish. And Sanders was leading the charge.
The St. Petersburg native scored eight of the Bulls' final 12 points, including a high-flying, one-handed slam that gave the Bulls a 55-47 lead and sent the crowd of 4,937 into a frenzy.
"If that wasn't an (ESPN) highlight, I don't know what was," USF coach Seth Greenberg said. "I wanted to do chest bumping with him."
The Bulls hit four consecutive free throws over the final 23 seconds to close out the victory.
South Florida led 30-28 at the half, despite the loss of Waldon, who picked up his second and third fouls within 17 seconds midway through the first half. He was forced to leave with 11:16 remaining and sat out the remainder of the first half.
David Wall led USM with 14 points.
"What a great senior display," Greenberg said. "Altron and B.B. didn't score in the second half. To be able to win that way is something very unique. Chonsey, Art, Sam and Cedric so understand league play. ... We just beat a very good team. I'm real proud of our guys."