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Not dominant, but still a win

Bulls reach USF Shootout title game with a 79-66 win against Alcorn State.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000


TAMPA -- It was not exactly the kind of performance Seth Greenberg was looking for from the South Florida men's basketball team, but in a way, it was totally understandable.

The holiday season has begun. The students, except the basketball players, have gone home.

So give the Bulls credit. Any win this time of year is a good win.

Led by 23 points from junior forward B.B. Waldon and a milestone night for junior Altron Jackson, South Florida defeated Alcorn State 79-66 Thursday night in front of 3,477 in the first game of the USF Shootout.

In the second game, Eastern Illinois beat Buffalo 73-66.

USF (7-3) plays Eastern Illinois (7-3) at 9 tonight. Alcorn State (2-7) plays Buffalo (1-5) in the consolation game at 7.

"We didn't have the energy we needed to have," Greenberg said. "I'm not real pleased with our performance tonight. ... But you know what I think: I think it's Christmas, there are no students here, they (players) know their classmates are at home and they want to be at home with their families, too. That's human nature."

While their minds may not have been completely on playing basketball at the opening tip, the Bulls got it done when it counted.

USF shot 51 percent, including 1-of-8 from three-point range. After a first half in which it seemed out of synch and played lackluster defense, South Florida found its rhythm.

Leading 36-27 at halftime, the Bulls opened with a 10-0 run and dominated from there.

"In the first half, we didn't play that tough defense like we have been in the last few games," said Jackson, who scored 17 points and became the 13th player in USF history to score 1,000 points in a career. "We came out a little flat. We didn't come out and play hard, but in the second half we just came out and played South Florida basketball."

The improved play included tough defense -- trapping, screening, making steals and taking the Braves out of any chance at transition. Alcorn State committed 25 turnovers (that led to 21 USF points) and was shut out the first five minutes of the second half.

"I thought we lost our poise in the first eight or nine minutes in the second half," Alcorn State coach Davey L. Whitney said. "Of the 25 turnovers we had, at least 18 or 19 were unforced and that's just dumb basketball. We were well-prepared for this game. I'm bitterly disappointed in our performance. We had two periods of not scoring ... take 10 minutes of scoring out and you're going to get your a-- kicked."

While Alcorn State never led, the Braves kept the score respectable, even close, for a good portion of the first 20 minutes.

With the score tied at 12, the Bulls went on a 10-2 run to take 22-14 lead. Alcorn State pulled within 26-23 when Devon Pack made a three-point basket with 3:47 remaining in the first half, but the Bulls closed out the half with a 10-4 run.

Brian Jackson led all Braves scorers with 12 points and also had six rebounds. USF senior Artha Reeves had 10 points and six rebounds, and Cedric Smith scored nine and guard Reggie Kohn added eight points and five rebounds.

Waldon, 27-of-32 from the field the past three games, had seven rebounds and a career-high six assists, but again struggled (2 of 7) from the free-throw line.

"B.B. came in before the game, one hour before everybody else, and made 450 out of 500 free throws," Greenberg said. "It's between the ears, not technique."

The tournament's second game turned out to be much more competitive than the opening game. Eastern Illinois led 38-30 at halftime and opened the second half with a 6-0 run.

But with 8:40 remaining, Buffalo put together a two minute, 6-0 run to pull within 60-59. Buffalo could have tied with 6:38 remaining, but Jason Robinson missed the first of two free throws.

Eastern-Illinois responded by outscoring Buffalo 7-0 over the next four minutes to seal the win.

Eastern Illinois' Henry Domercant led all scorers with 32 points.

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