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Bulls cash in on last chance

Altron Jackson’s two free throws make up for lousy day at line in 61-60 win over UAB.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


TAMPA -- The game came down to two free throws and a huge defensive stop.

photo
[Times photo: Mike Pease]
Gerrick Morris dunks in the first half of South Florida's win over Alabama-Birmingham, which ended a two-game losing streak.

And for a change, it was South Florida's turn to make both.

Having gone 0-for-3 from the free-throw line, junior forward Altron Jackson hit two with 31 seconds remaining, and senior Sam Sanders blocked a winning shot attempt by Alabama-Birmingham guard LeAndrew Bass with three seconds left to give South Florida a 61-60 win in front of 4,346 at the Sun Dome on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulls (15-8, 7-3 Conference USA) ended a two-game losing streak and held on to at least second place in the National Division. "It's amazing what one made free throw can do for your life," South Florida coach Seth Greenberg said.

"The game was on the line," Jackson said of the two free throws. "This is what it's all about. Sam told me big-time players step up for big-time games."

Sanders should know. The former Lakewood High star came up big in the final 20 seconds.

It was Sanders who closely guarded Igor Nikolic, forcing him to miss a shot with 11 seconds remaining. The ball hit the rim, and in the scramble USF forward Cedric Smith (10 points, 10 rebounds) knocked the ball out of bounds, giving UAB (12-10, 5-5) another opportunity to win the game.

And it was Sanders who leaped and blocked the winning attempt by Bass.

"That's what those 6 a.m.'s (early morning defense-only drills) are all about," said Sanders, who had two points and 11 rebounds.

"After he (Jackson) made those free throws, I knew we were going to win. I was thinking, I don't care if we have to call in the Armed Forces, we're going to win. All I was thinking was that I had to lock him up."

UAB led by as many as 11 midway through the first half and was up 35-28 at halftime.

After being outrebounded 31-21, shooting 9-for-31 (29 percent) to 13-for-36 (36.1 percent) for UAB and hitting 7 of 16 free throwsin the first half, the Bulls came out fighting in the second.

A 14-3 run midway through the half, led by Jackson (who scored 22 points), guard Reggie Kohn (9 points, 3 assists) and Gerrick Morris (8 points, 2 key blocks), gave South Florida a 50-49 lead with 10:43 remaining. It was the Bulls' first lead since 14:31 was left in the first half.

From there, it was a battle to the finish. The teams exchanged leads six times in the final eight minutes.

"This was a tough loss, but give South Florida credit; they made the shots they needed to make," UAB coach Murry Bartow said. "We played defense well enough to win and we rebounded well enough, but our offense wasn't very good."

UAB shot 37.9 percent from the field (22-for-58) and was 6-for-22 from three-point range. The Bulls shot 36 percent from the field (22-for-60) and 8-for-21 from beyond the arc. And despite Jackson's winning free throws, the Bulls had a second straight poor performance, hitting 9-of-24 from the line.

UAB led 56-50 with 6:58 remaining, but USF kept chipping away, taking a 57-56 lead when Morris grabbed a rebound off a Jackson miss and slammed it in with 2:31 remaining. Eric Batchelor's two free throws with 2:03 left pulled UAB back ahead by one, but Jackson hit a short jumper with 1:41 left to give USF a 59-58 lead. Nikolic's basket with 1:07 put UAB ahead 60-59.

"I couldn't be prouder of this team," Greenberg said. "Getting that last stop was huge. That's where our conditioning and digging down deep comes in. It was nice to see that rewarded. It was an emotional win, I won't lie. And it was a great character win."

Senior forward Artha Reeves was scheduled to be evaluated after the game to determine whether surgery is needed to repair ligament damage in his knee. Smith twisted his ankle early in the game but continued to play, logging 35 minutes.

Today: USF women vs. Southern Miss

WHEN/WHERE: 2 p.m.; USF Sun Dome, Tampa.

RECORDS: Southern Miss 12-11, 5-7 Conference USA; USF 3-19, 0-11.

KEY PLAYERS: Southern Miss -- Victoria Mason, F, 6-1 Jr., (11.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg); Angela Johnson, G, 5-5 Sr. (11.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg); Jessica Woods, F, 5-10 Jr. (10.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg). USF -- Aiya Shepard, G, 5-6 So. (16.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Denetrice Stinson, F, 6-0 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg); Shannon Layne, G, 5-8 Sr. (10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg).

NOTES: South Florida is on an 11-game losing streak and has lost 15 of its past 16 games. ... The Bulls are coming off a 70-52 loss to Tulane; Southern Miss comes in having lost a key National Division game at Houston on Friday night. In that game, Johnson became the 17th player in Southern Miss history to score 1,000 career points. ... Layne, USF's career three-point field-goal leader, has reached No. 4 on the career C-USA chart. ... A sophomore, Shepard is No. 12 on USF's career steals list with 127 and is the conference leader with 3.05 per game.

- Compiled by Antonya English.

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