Missing the point, airline upgrades and more ...
So many odd things to get to, and technically it's still an odd thing that USF's men's basketball team has won seven games in a row. Lots to write about, from Jim Leavitt getting his body painted while wearing a shirt to Kentrell Gransberry thanking a basketball crowd with a football metaphor.
-- Yes, as many of you commenters noted, USF got shorted a point Saturday night. And while it proved to be a largely harmless point, it represents a scorekeeping error that was noticed -- by myself and others on press row -- verified and pointed out to game officials during the game, but ultimately not corrected. The official book on the game showed Jesus Verdejo missing the second of two free throws off a technical foul with 12:37 left in the game. The second shot actually gave USF the lead -- I remember thinking Heath made a smart move in choosing Verdejo, who is a strong free-throw shooter and had yet to score in the game. Officially, the shot missed and the game was still tied at 42-42.
I noticed the discrepancy on the video boards in the Sun Dome moments later and told Jeff Wuerth of USF's sports information department. Radio analyst Jim Lighthall soon after asked me what I had the score as, and other media members agreed USF had been shorted a point. Once it was determined that the Verdejo free throw was the source of the error, USF coach Stan Heath was notified with 3:46 left to play and the Bulls ahead 60-54. He alerted an official to the problem, but it was not addressed further.
USF asked a Big East official in attendance about having the point added after the game -- you often see statistical tweaks such as adding a rebound or assist -- but the score is unchangeable once the officials have walked off the court. So Verdejo officially went 3-for-4 on free throws, though he did not miss any of his attempts Saturday night.
-- What stood out most to me about Jim Leavitt coming out at midcourt painted green and gold, then making a cameo in the front row of the USF student section in the second half? It's so rare the coach lets his guard down and really lets people see him having fun. Leavitt's a very guarded person, so even his celebrations -- at least the public ones -- are carefully muted and reserved. So to see him enjoy himself (even if he ducked out with a lot of basketball to be played) was a rare thing, and a reason why someone like Jeff Wagner can be very good for someone like Jim Leavitt. Great fun to watch and a thrill for USF's students. The real question? After recruiting dies down in February, does he do it again for a Big East game?
-- Heath said he didn't see Leavitt but said it was "quite a coincidence" that Leavitt got on the court early in the second half, and then a little bit later, USF went on a key 10-0 run to get the lead for good. "Maybe it got the crowd going, maybe got our players energized, but I can't wait to see the film. Hopefully they taped some of it. I'd like to see what he looked like in the green paint."
-- Maybe Leavitt's presence had an impact on center Kentrell Gransberry, who gave credit to USF's students after the game for being the Bulls' "12th man." Not the sixth man, as most basketball players would say, but the 12th man, the more common football analogy. Gransberry's played plenty of football and everybody knows exactly what he means, but what if he really meant it in basketball terms, that the Sun Dome crowd is there, but totally at the end of the bench and barely making an impact? Of course, he didn't mean that. Just having fun.
-- In the first minute of his postgame comments, Stan Heath thanked USF's administration for stepping up and flying his team via charter from its road game Wednesday night at Richmond. With a quick turnaround for Saturday's game, the time saved made a difference. "I thought one of the factors that was huge today was we were fortunate that for one of the first times, we got a charter back from Richmond," he said. "That really helped us in terms of getting back, getting our legs underneath us, and even more importantly, getting our guys to classes and tutorials to get ready for exams. I thought our athletic department and Doug Woolard were a big part of this win, as well as our basketball team."
-- The most unsung aspect of USF's 7-3 start? Getting to the free-throw line. Not even hitting free throws, because that continues to be an area for improvement. The difference in Saturday's game was that USF got to the line 40 times and UAB got there 14. This is different from a huge disparity in fouls -- UAB was called for 23 and USF 18. USF is getting fouls on shots, and while the Bulls missed a horrid 14 of them Saturday, that was as many as UAB attempted. UAB hit more field goals, hit six more 3-pointers and still lost, because for the 10th time in 10 games this season, USF hit more free throws than its opponent. I think Gransberry will be taking some free throws on the side in the 10 days before the Bulls play again.
-- One more thing: I'll be curious to see how FSU transfer Aaron Holmes now fits into USF's lineup. He'll make his Bulls debut in the next game, at Wake Forest on Dec. 19. Whose minutes does he take? It could be some from guard Jesus Verdejo, who was averaging 12.9 in the first seven games but has averaged 8.7 in the last three, going 6-for-21 from the field. USF could use a boost to its bench, which scored only seven points in 32 minutes Saturday. Forward Amu Saaka continues to struggle, getting two fouls and a turnover -- nothing else statistically -- in one minute of action against UAB. Junior B.J. Ajayi logged only one minute and had zeroes for the rest of his line, while junior Aris Williams played six, with three points and two rebounds.
-- On a personal note, I'll ask each of you reading this to track down an old friend, somebody you haven't talked to in years. Send them an e-mail, call them, write them a letter, track them down, catch up on old times and give them a hug. That's what my good friend Steve Almasy did Saturday afternoon, even though he called to let me know a colleague of ours from our CNNSI.com days, Jon Barkan, had suddenly died of a heart attack at age 39, leaving a wife and three young children behind. Jon and I shared many a shift and many a laugh when CNNSI.com launched in 1997, and there are a ton of memories just at the mention of his name. Earlier this fall, we'd joined each other's Friends lists on Facebook.com but never connected, and that only makes the news of his passing sadder for me. Like so many of us, the message on his page says he's just "surviving another day on this planet." So for Jon, do me a favor and e-mail an old friend and just say hi.