TAMPA — Before Friday, USF coach Stan Heath had never been involved in a triple-overtime game.
Then again, Heath had never been part of a night like this.
The Bulls overcame a seven-point deficit with a minute left in regulation — and a 22-minute power outage in the first OT — to win an 87-84 thriller over Bowling Green at the Sun Dome, the second-longest game in USF history.
"It was incredible, man," Bulls forward Victor Rudd said. "You love being a part of a night like that."
Rudd hit the tying 3 with three seconds left to force the first overtime, another tying 3 to force a third, and a three-point play with 13 seconds left that gave USF the lead for good before 4,008 in attendance.
"Terrific," Heath said of Rudd, who scored a game-high 29. "He was very, very special tonight."
And guard Martino Brock had a game-saving block. With 18 seconds left in triple OT and Bowling Green up two, guard Jordon Crawford threw a long pass over the USF press to Anthony Henderson, who was streaking for a wide-open layup.
Brock, easily 20 feet behind, somehow sprinted back and swatted Henderson's attempt. "That was the moment," Heath said. "Defensive play of the year."
Brock was brilliant in the first half, with 13 of his season-high 18 points. Heath thought the Bulls had put it away when they led by 11 with 12 minutes left.
But Rudd said USF (7-3) let its guard down. Crawford, the top scorer for the Falcons (5-6) who was scoreless in the first half, had 15 points in the final 15 minutes of regulation (27 overall). "He's a dynamic player," Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said.
But so is Rudd, who played 53 of the 55 minutes. Said Heath: "I shouldn't have took him out the other two." The Bulls controlled the first overtime, leading by four with 21.6 seconds left before the lights went out in the newly revamped Sun Dome.
"It's like, "What the heck is going on?' " Heath said. "We've got a new building, there's going to be some kinks." After the 22-minute delay, Jawanza Poland and Anthony Collins each missed the front ends of 1-and-1 free throws.
"That was the ultimate freeze," Heath quipped.
And, each time, Crawford raced to score a layup, forcing double OT. Rudd, again, came up clutch in the second OT, hitting a 3 with 27 seconds left to tie it. It was USF's longest game since a four-OT game Feb. 8, 1979, against New Orleans, but the Bulls have more than a week to recover on their holiday break.
"For me," Rudd said, smiling, "It's an extra good Christmas."