SCORE: SOUTH FLORIDA 84, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 83
TAMPA, FL --- With 22 seasons in the profession, Northern Illinois University
mens head coach Rob Judson must be a realist. The fact that his
Huskies fell, 84-83, to the University of South Florida at the Sun Dome
in the final seconds Tuesday night (December 17) is not a moral victory.
In the harsh won-lost world of major-college basketball, it is a setback---albeit
a correctable one.
a 40-minute game, Judson stressed afterwards. Its consistency
over the course of time. We break down games in four-minute segments and
we lost the first three badly. In the second half, it was a basketball
game. Im proud of the team. Did we come back and fight? Yes, I really
liked the way we played in the second half.
Illinois frosh guard Anthony Maestranzi hit a lean-in banking three-pointer
on the run from midcourt at the buzzer for the games final points.
Judsons Huskies fought back within two points three times at 78-76,
80-78, and 82-80 during the final 2:19, but the comeback wasnt enough
and the loss spoiled a career night by junior swingman P. J. Smith who
exploded for a collegiate-high 35 points---23 in the final 20 minutes.
made a lot of shots, Judson said. His teammates did a nice
job of finding him and he gave us a nice inside-out presence. Our start
left a lot to be desired. We turned over the ball a lot in the first 12
minutes and that led to a lot of easy (USF) baskets. We began to regroup
the last eight minutes of the (first) half. Down nine at half gave us
After its only lead of the contest---6-5 just 2:39 into the game on a
Jay Bates lay-up, Northern Illinois struggled most of the opening half
and fell behind as much by 20 points (32-12), thanks to a 27-6 USF run
or a Huskie drought that produced only
three baskets during a stretch of 7:54. NIU battled back and pulled within
nine at the intermission, thanks to a Todd Peterson trey with 0:02 left.
And thats where the 6-foot-4 Smith took over the proceedings.
opened the second stanza by canning his first five shots---a driving lay-in,
a three-point jumper, another trey, a fastbreak dunk, and a third trifecta
that left the host Bulls still ahead, 56-46. But psychologically, Judsons
team was back in the game. Peterson converted on a rare four-point play
after getting fouled on a trey from the perimeter. His free throw pulled
the Huskies within 56-50 at the 13:55 mark. Then Northern Illinois outscored
USF by an 11-7 margin and Smiths three-pointer rallied the visitors
within 63-61 with 9:20 on the scoreboard clock.
more times, Smith pushed Judsons quintet within two, 65-63 and 68-66,
at a time when South Florida point guard Reggie Kohn sat out after being
poked in the eye. Kohn returned and helped USF rebuild a 77-70 advantage,
but guess who went on a 6-1 spree to scratch within 78-76? Clutch one-and-one
free throw shooting by Smith, a short Bates jumper in the paint, and then
two more one-and-one foul shots by Al Sewasciuk did the work at 2:19 left.
teams misfired---Northern Illinois turned the ball over and South Floridas
6-foot-10 pivotman Will McDonald missed a sure-bet dunk in-close. USF
increased the margin to 80-76 on foul shots by Marlyn Bryant with 1:16
Smith tallied point Nos. 34 and 35 on a driving bank shot with 0:48 left.
After a Bulls timeout, McDonald put the hosts up 82-78 on a rebound basket
with 0:15.1 to play. On the ensuing possession, Bates took the ball to
the hole and made his two free throws for an 82-80 deficit with 0:04.2
and was forced to foul Bryant who made two foul shots 1.2 seconds later.
was a great effort on a hostile court, Judson added. We can
go right down the line and cite a lot of people. Perry really got it doing
and lifted the team. I think we found our scorer tonight.
35 points---on 14-of-18 shots from the floor (5-of-7 on three-pointers)
and 2-of-2 at the charity stripe---marked the most by a Northern Illinois
performer in 76 games since All-Century center T. J. Lux bombed Marshall
for his ultimate double double performance (36 points and
20 rebounds) at Chick Evans Field House on January 22, 2000. The previous
career-high for Smith was a 26-point outing at Akron on February 20, 2002.
No. 21 also added a team-best seven rebounds, two steals, and one assist
in his 31-minute stint vs. USF. Bates was the only other double-digit
Huskie scorer with 12 points.
South Florida---now 5-2 overall---boasted three twin-digit scorers.
led the way with a 28-point and 11-board double double followed
by forward Jimmy Baxter with 21 points and forward Terrence Leather with
11 markers. The Huskies won the battle of the boards, 37-32, but ulimately
lost the game at the charity stripe where despite canning a commendable
13-of-17 free throws (.765 percent), USF made 18-of-27.
Illinois---now 3-5 overall and 0-1 in the Mid-American Conference---now
goes from Conference USA to the Missouri Valley Conference and plays Illinois
State University for the first time in 20 years this Saturday (December
21) at Redbird Arena. Tipoff time is 2:05 p.m. (CST).
Copy by Mike Korcek -30-