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Bulls way off-target in bid for first place

50 percent shooting at the line sends USF to a 100-89 C-USA loss to Memphis.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001


TAMPA -- Sole possession of first place and an unblemished home record went down the drain together for South Florida on Wednesday night in a flurry of missed free throws.

With first place in Conference USA's National Division and an unbeaten home record on the line, South Florida was playing what coach Seth Greenberg called one of its most important February games in many years.

But it was Memphis that played as if it had everything at stake.

Led by Kelly Wise, the only player in C-USA averaging a double double, Memphis defeated South Florida 100-89 in front of 4,702 at the Sun Dome.

It was the first time in Sun Dome history an opponent scored 100 points.

Free throws played a huge role in the outcome.

South Florida (14-8, 6-3 C-USA) shot 50 percent from the free-throw line, compared with 78 percent for the Tigers (13-9, 7-2).

"We didn't make free throws; that's all there is to it," said Bulls junior forward Altron Jackson, who scored a game-high 32 points and had eight rebounds but was 7-of-15 from the line. "They got offensive rebounds, and we missed free throws."

Though Wise was unstoppable in the second half, scoring 20 of his team-high 24 points, South Florida hurt itself more.

In a penalty-filled game, the Bulls shot 21-of-42 from the line and went 4-of-12 from three-point range.

The Tigers, on the other hand, hit 36-of-46, including 10-of-11 in the final three minutes. Six Memphis players scored in double figures.

"That was a war by both teams," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "We really came in with a sense of urgency, really from the start of the game. It was a terrific win. Give them credit; they did not go away even with three minutes to go. They could have stopped playing, but they didn't."

Memphis led 43-36 at halftime after leading by as many as 13.

Six quick points brought the Bulls within 45-42 with 18:36 remaining, but the Tigers, led by Wise and Scooter McFadgon (18 points, five rebounds), went on a four-minute run to take a 58-45 lead.

Just when it looked as if the Tigers had the game in hand, South Florida made its run.

With the Bulls trailing by 13 points, Jackson went to work. He scored 10 of South Florida's next 14 points, including a three-point basket on a fastbreak with 11:45 remaining, to lead the Bulls on a 14-3 run that got them within 61-59.

Jackson missed the second of two free throws that would have pulled the Bulls within one with 10:46 remaining.

From there, Memphis went on a 7-0 run to take a 68-59 lead. South Florida pulled within 70-65 with 8:05 remaining, but the Bulls didn't get any closer.

"I know you're going to ask about free throws; if you've got any solutions, please help me," Greenberg said. "I don't have an answer. We shoot them, we shoot extras, we do about everything humanly possible except go to a voodoo doctor."

Junior center Mike Bernard made his first start of the season, scoring 13 points and grabbing two rebounds. Senior Artha Reeves also scored 12 points, and Cedric Smith added 10.

Senior forward Chonsey Asbury was scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery today to repair his previously injured right knee.

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