Buzzer-beater burns Bulls

With one quiet swish of the twine Wednesday night, the occasionally deafening Sun Dome crowd fell quiet.

UAB senior Sidney Ball took the air out of the Sun Dome and the USF men’s basketball team as his three-pointer, with less than one second remaining, gave the Blazers a 61-59 victory.

“All the wind in my body just left,” USF junior Brian Swift said. “I thought we had a real good chance of winning the game. The shot went in, and as I said, the wind just left my body.”

Ball was left open after Morris Finley drove the lane and was deterred by Gerrick Morris’ long arm-reaching for a deflection.

“They might have set a screen to get him open and Gerrick might have switched on it too soon,” USF coach Robert McCullum said.

Finley passed to Ball in the corner, giving the Bulls their fifth straight loss.

“The play was designed for Morris or Demario (Eddins),” Ball said. “He made a smart play, and hit the open man and I got the shot.”

Seconds before, the Bulls ran an offensive set the way they drew it, giving them the temporary one-point lead.

Terrence Leather drove the ball for a lay-up from the right block, hitting the basket as he was fouled.

Leather then sank the free throw to put the Bulls ahead 59-58.

“We came down and did as good a job at executing that last possession as any all year,” McCullum said. “We executed it to perfection just like it was drawn up.”

The Bulls were still plagued by two areas that have hurt them all season: limiting opponents second chance shots and getting an early lead.

The Blazers scored 15 second-chance points, including what McCullum called the biggest play of the game. Late in the fourth, UAB’s Gabe Kennedy missed a shot and grabbed his own rebound on a loose ball for a dunk.

“There was a loose ball on the floor, and he could just not only gain control of it, but gain control of it and lay it in,” McCullum said. “That obviously was a huge possession.”

Leather led the Bulls’ resurgence in the game, scoring 20 points as the Bulls fought back from a 14-point deficit in the first half.

Before the final 11 seconds of the game USF hadn’t led since the first basket of the game.

The Bulls held the Blazers to 29 percent from the field in the second half, as opposed to 44 percent in the first.

“Defensively, I think we played a very good game,” Swift said. “Our defense was there. It’s just another close game we came to play.”