Another late-season swoon

If one heard that Greg Brittian, Brian Swift and Marlyn Bryant had combined for 30 points against UAB, chances are the assumption would be South Florida clobbered the Blazers by 20.Wrong.

UAB avenged a 16-point loss to the Bulls Feb. 5 at the Sun Dome by defeating South Florida 83-78 in double overtime Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.

“If only we had played the first 30 minutes like the last 20 minutes, we would have been okay,” coach Seth Greenberg said.The Bulls (17-10, 7-7 in Conference USA) had been on the bubble for an at-large NCAA Tournament selection during the past two weeks. The UAB loss, South Florida’s third in the last four games, now puts the Bulls’ hopes of a National Invitational Tournament slot in severe jeopardy.

“Defensively, I thought we played good in the first half,” Greenberg said. “But offensively, we were out of sync.”

Out of sync would be one way to describe the Bulls first-half performance. Atrocious would be another.

USF scored half as many points in the first half as it did in the second. The Blazers (12-15, 5-9 in C-USA), who came into the game with an RPI of 159, took a 27-23 lead into halftime – forcing Greenberg to remove his starters in favor of reserves for the majority of the second half.

“Some of the guys that started gave us nothing,” Greenberg said. “You can’t pick and choose which games and plays to play hard. Good teams don’t take plays off.”

With Altron Jackson and Reggie Kohn struggling to find their rhythm, USF trailed 61-48 with five minutes remaining. But the Bulls, sparked by Bryant and Swift, reeled off a 21-8 run to send the game into overtime.

Will McDonald scored back-to-back baskets to open up the first extra session, but P.J. Arnold followed suit to tie the game at 73 and force a second overtime.

Brittian drained a clutch three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:56 left in the second overtime to put USF ahead 78-77, but that would be the last basket the Bulls would make. USF missed its final five shots.

Jackson (12 points) and Kohn (1-of-9 from the floor) played sparingly in the second half and less in the overtimes. Greenberg said he preferred to stick with the players that brought the Bulls back from a 13-point second-half deficit.

“(Bryant and Swift) played hard,” he said. “They were playing well, they brought us back and I thought it was important to go with those guys.”