You can thank Trent Tucker for tonight's win.
The last play of the game will be the one you remember, with FGCU's Jamail Jones heaving a flawless pass 94 feet over late-game-inbounding-defensive-specialist-seven-foot-three-inch Jordan Omogbehin and hitting Chase Fieler just inches from the rim at the end of double overtime. But Fieler caught the ball instead of tipping it, and since the clock read 0.3 seconds instead of 0.4 or more, a tip was the only way the Eagles could legally score.
So even though the final shot to tie went off (and in) before the light did, USF survived 68-66 for their third straight two-point victory. Victor Rudd was the star for the Bulls, with 23 points and 14 rebounds in 46 minutes, and the senior forward played some excellent defense particularly late in the contest. Despite some questionable shot selection at times, particularly his penchant for long twos early in the shot clock, and three crucial missed free throws late, Rudd showed his bonafides when they were needed on both sides of the floor.
The Bulls scraped out another win over a team you would think they should handle easily at home, and the same offensive shooting issues that have plagued the team so far raised their ugly head again. USF was 29-72 from the floor, and 3-15 from three point range. Their effective field goal percentage of 42.4 was well below their team average of 47.9, which ranked them 219th in America heading into tonight's contest. USF was shooting 70% from the free throw line for the year entering tonight... but they were 7-for-20 against the Eagles, including missing two front ends of 1-and-1's in the second half. The offense continues to sputter, but somehow the Bulls found a way again.
Anthony Collins continues to struggle, shooting just 3-for-11 from the floor with five assists and four turnovers. He also struggled to keep Dunk City's point guard Brett Comer in check, who undressed Collins on several occasions. Comer is going to do that to a lot of people, but the gap between the two was cringe-inducing at times. This blog humbly serves on the board of the Anthony Collins Fan Club, but he is clearly not himself and the offseason knee injury is obviously still plaguing him.
Chris Perry and John Egbunu continues to improve as freshman forces on the block, combining for 22 points on 10-for-20 shooting, and grabbing 16 rebounds. Perry was at times triple-teamed by the Eagles when he caught a post entry, but still managed to score and find open teammates. The Bulls also forced 19 turnovers while committing just eight, in a 50-minute game.
It was a scrap for USF to even force overtime. The Bulls trailed 44-35 with 9:39 to play. A 9-2 run led by six points from Martino Brock made it a contest again, and the Bulls finally drew even ton a three from Collins with 3:40 to play to make it 51-all. A gorgeous lob pass from Collins to Rudd with 52 seconds left gave the Bulls their first lead since the 11-minute mark at 55-53, but Bernard Thompson (a beast tonight with 32 points, seven rebounds, and 50 of a possible 50 minutes) answered back with a jumper to tie it at 55. The Bulls got the last shot in regulation and called a clearout for Collins to go at Comer, but his runner went well wide, and it looked like a clean block from behind by Comer to force OT.
The first overtime tested the love any basketball fan might have for the sport. The two teams combined for four (4) points in the five-minute session. It was beyond ugly, but amazingly the Bulls still had TWO fouls to give at the end of the overtime. Rudd fouled on purpose to force FGCU to inbound with 3.5 seconds remaining, and some nice defense forced a prayer by Comer to go wide.
In the second overtime, Rudd scored seven points to guide the Bulls, and a seemingly gassed Eagles side couldn't throw it in the ocean from the pier, even with some good looks. Still, USF couldn't put it away. Rudd missed two consecutive free throws to keep the score at 66-63 with 18 seconds left. But a missed three from Thompson gave Rudd a chance at redemption, and he finally made one of two at the line to make it a two-possession game with nine seconds left. Another three from Thompson cut the lead to one, and Jamail Jones fouled Collins with 0.4 seconds with the Bulls up 67-66.
The refs reset the clock to 0.8 seconds before the free throws were taken. AC made the first but missed the second, and when Fieler rebounded and called timeout, the clock read 0.3 seconds, meaning only a tip-in from 94 feet could salvage the game for the Eagles.
And it almost happened. If that timeout was taken one-tenth of a second earlier, we play a third overtime.
Chaos. Insanity. Ugly. Win.