TAMPA — The University of South Florida Bulls won narrowly Tuesday night — by a tenth of a second, in fact.
“We'll take it,'' USF coach Stan Heath said.
The Bulls couldn't get out of the Sun Dome fast enough following a 68-66 double-overtime victory against Florida Gulf Coast University.
After USF's Anthony Collins missed the second of two free throws with 0.8 seconds remaining, FGCU called an immediate timeout. Time remaining: 0.3 seconds.
Then came an incredible effort. FGCU's Jamail Jones threw a length-of-the-court baseball pass — while being guarded by 7-foot-3 Jordan Omogbehin — and Chase Fieler came off a double screen to catch it. Replays and photographs confirmed that Fieler got off a quick baseline shot before the backboard light came on.
It went in.
Officials consulted the ESPNU replay and waved off Fieler's shot.
The NCAA rule is clear.
Rule 5, Section 18, Article 1: In any period, when the game clock displays 10ths of seconds and play is to be resumed by a throw-in or a free-throw when 3/10 (.3) of a second or less remains on the game clock, a player may not gain possession of the ball and try for a field goal. Such player can only score a field goal by means of a tap of a pass or of a missed free throw.
Heath was confident USF (7-2) had won its third consecutive game by a two-point margin, but he was suddenly nervous when officials went to the replay.
“I was in constant conversation with the official on the baseline,'' Heath said. “If it's point-eight, they can catch and shoot. If it's point-three, they can only tip. We still broke down on our end. Some kind of way, Fieler got wide open.
“Once he caught it and shot it, then the rule is the rule. I got a little worried when they went to the monitor, but they were trying to confirm it. The kid (Jones) made an unbelievable throw. If it's point-four (remaining), we're in trouble.''
FGCU coach Joe Dooley, whose team fell to 5-5, joked that a lot of NFL offensive coordinators would like to sign Jones for his full-court pass.
“It doesn't matter what I see,'' Dooley said. “I know the rule. If it's point-three, it has to be a tip. They saw what they saw and called what they called.''
“I thought I did (make it in time), but it's hard to comment on the refs,'' Fieler said.
For USF, senior Victor Rudd had seven of his team-high 23 points in the second overtime, along with 14 rebounds.
For FGCU, Bernard Thompson was on fire with 32 points, including six 3-pointers.
Almost lost in the shuffle was Heath getting a victory on his 49th birthday.
Any plans for a celebration, coach?
“I'm going to watch film and go to bed,'' Heath said with a sigh.
FLORIDA GULF COAST (5-5) — Hicks 0-3 0-0 0, Fieler 4-12 2-4 10, Comer 7-17 2-3 17, Thompson 13-23 0-1 32, Jones 2-6 0-0 4, Cvjeticanin 1-4 0-0 3, Blake 0-0 0-0 0, Graf 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-65 4-8 66.
SOUTH FLORIDA (7-2) — Rudd 10-22 3-6 23, Perry 5-11 0-3 10, Egbunu 5-9 2-4 12, Allen Jr. 2-9 0-0 5, Collins 3-11 1-3 9, Brock 4-8 1-2 9, Abdul-Aleem 0-1 0-2 0, LeDay 0-1 0-0 0, McLendon 0-0 0-0 0, Omogbehin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-72 7-20 68.
Halftime—South Florida 23-21. End Of Regulation—Tied 55. End Of 1st Overtime—Tied 57. 3-Point Goals—Florida Gulf Coast 8-25 (Thompson 6-12, Cvjeticanin 1-4, Comer 1-6, Fieler 0-1, Jones 0-2), South Florida 3-15 (Collins 2-7, Allen Jr. 1-2, Brock 0-1, Abdul-Aleem 0-1, LeDay 0-1, Rudd 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Florida Gulf Coast 51 (Hicks 19), South Florida 43 (Rudd 14). Assists—Florida Gulf Coast 12 (Comer 8), South Florida 15 (Collins 5). Total Fouls—Florida Gulf Coast 21, South Florida 14. A—4,105.