Close call: Bulls edge Vermont 61-59 in opener
TAMPA -- USF lost enough close games last season that Stan Heath won't turn away any victory, even if Saturday's 61-59 season-opening win against Vermont was much closer than it needed to be.
The Bulls (1-0) led by 12 with 10 minutes remaining, saw that lead cut to one in the final minute, then held on for the win when Vermont's tying tip-in at the buzzer was ruled by officials to be a split-second too late. And because the game at the University of Tampa's Martinez Center wasn't televised, there was no monitor for replay to confirm the close call.
"We were fortunate to get the win -- obviously I wish there was a monitor, so they could have gotten the call," coach Stan Heath said. "We would have known exactly what happened. I thought the call was right. Until you look at it, I'm not sure anybody would really know."
With four seconds left, Vermont's Four McGlynn drove and missed a layup, but forward Matt Glass got a tip-in the same instant the buzzer sounded. The official at midcourt immediately signaled that the shot was too late, though the lack of confirmation was "difficult" for Vermont coach John Becker.
"Obviously the play at the end of the game from my vantage point looked like it was good, but apparently there's no replay equipment here so we couldn't take a look at that," Becker said. "That is what it is. We had our opportunities and didn't capitalize on them."
America East rules require that replay be available at all games, while Big East policy -- which is in play for a Big East home game -- does not require replay monitors on games that aren't televised.
USF got 16 points and nine rebounds from senior center Ron Anderson, with guard Shaun Noriega going 4-for-5 on 3-pointers to finish with 15 points. Forwards Victor Rudd and Augustus Gilchrist each had 12 to round out a balanced scoring night. USF committed only five turnovers, with sophomore Lavonte Dority getting six assists and no turnovers in 30 minutes in his first career start.
"We had an opportunity to put the game away. Free throws could have done it for us, but this team probably needs to deal with a little adversity," said Heath, whose team's first nine losses last season were all by single digits.
The Bulls played with only seven players, with guards Jawanza Poland and Anthony Collins injured and forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick serving a one-game suspension for playing in a non-sanctioned summer league game. The Bulls, who won't play on campus this season while the Sun Dome is being renovated, open the year with three games at three venues in five days, with that continuing Monday against Marist at St. Pete Times Forum.