TAMPA — As the ball rolled around and around the rim, before it had time to fall through the rim, the shot clock expired and South Florida point guard Anthony Collins hit the court with a loud thud.
Collins had made a basket when the Bulls really needed one — at the end of a disjointed possession where two errant passes had nearly led to back-court violations and Collins ended up with the ball outside the 3-point line with just a few seconds left on the clock.
Collins drove to the rim and released a finger roll that gave the Bulls a 48-46 lead over Alabama, a lead they would never relinquish in a 66-64 win against the Crimson Tide on Saturday night at the Sun Dome.
The Bulls (6-2) won the opening tipoff, but little else went right for USF in the early going as Alabama (4-4) raced to an early 9-2 lead.
Eventually, USF found its footing, using an 11-2 run to take a 19-15 lead with four minutes to play in the first half.
From there, the Bulls outscored Alabama 10-8 to take a 29-23 halftime lead over the Crimson Tide.
The second half started much like the first, as Alabama quickly erased its deficit and built a lead of its own.
Crimson Tide guard Trevor Releford unleashed nine consecutive points to put Alabama up 44-40 with 11:21 left to play.
There was 8:26 left in the game when Collins made his acrobatic finger roll to give the Bulls a 48-46 lead. Alabama never tied the game again, though it did cut the deficit to 65-64 thanks to a corner 3-pointer by Shannon Hale with 10.5 seconds to play.
After a Collins free-throw gave the Bulls a two-point cushion, Alabama’s Levi Randolph had his game-tying shot attempt blocked by USF center John Egbunu with four seconds left. Hale missed a shot at the buzzer.
Victor Rudd led the Bulls in scoring with 15 points. Collins finished with seven.
True freshman Chris Perry was again impressive for the Bulls, notching his second-consecutive double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
USF outrebounded the Crimson Tide 40-31.
UCF 77, STETSON 58
ORLANDO – The road was unkind to UCF during a three-game trip away from Orlando last week that saw it follow a win at Miami with back-to-back losses.
A return home turned out to be a perfect remedy to its woes.
Tristan Spurlock had 21 points and Isaiah Sykes added 17 as the Knights held off the Hatters.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Knights, who were playing their first game at home since Nov. 17.
“We came out tight. We lost a couple games in a row and were feeling sorry for ourselves. We came out, they made a run at us in the first half, and they spaced us out,” UCF coach Donnie Jones said. “The second half we went into our zone – a couple of different zones — to keep guys in front and use our length. I thought we did a much better job.”
Brandon Goodwin added 11 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for UCF, which held Stetson to just 32 percent in the second half.
The Knights led by five at halftime, but used a 14-0 run midway through the second half to take control of the game.
Brian Pegg led the Hatters with 13 points.
The Associated Press