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Harris leads VCU past USF 91-80

Virginia Commonwealth guard Kenny Harris can imagine playing at the Sun Dome all the time.

Make that, he would relish the opportunity.

Harris scored a season-high 26 points to lead VCU to a 91-80 Metro Conference basketball win Saturday against South Florida.

USF (10-16, 2-10) ended the regular season with a four-game losing streak, while VCU (14-12, 5-7) snapped a two-game skid entering next week's Metro tournament at Biloxi, Miss.

"Kenny Harris came out of his slump today," VCU coach Sonny Smith said. "He'd been playing well, but he was in a shooting slump."

Harris scored just two points against Virginia Tech and five against Tulane. But against the Bulls, he hit 7-of-9 shots, including all six from three-point range and all six free throws.

"The court feels just like you're on the playground," said Harris, a senior point guard who transferred to VCU from North Carolina. "One of the guys said I should have transferred here _ I would have averaged 30."

Harris scored 30 points in VCU's come-from-behind overtime win at the Sun Dome last year. USF led 67-41 with 10:26 to go in that game before Harris took over.

This time, the Rams broke open a close game late in the first half, fueled in part by a controversial call.

USF trailed 40-33 when guard Robert Polk lost the ball and fouled Terrence Gibson. The officials also gave Polk a technical foul on the play.

"I asked him (official Mike Jag) what he (Polk) said and he said, "He didn't say anything; it was his attitude and the way he looked at me,'

" USF coach Bobby Paschal said.

"That's the worst call I'd ever seen," Polk said, adding that he didn't glare at the official.

Gibson hit both free throws, then forward Tyron McCoy made both technical free throws for a 44-33 lead with 4:38 left in the half. Worse for USF, the technical gave Polk four fouls.

Without Polk, point guard Chucky Atkins was the Bulls' lone perimeter threat, which made it easier for VCU to collapse on forward Jesse Salters inside.

Forward Vince Hyatt, however, hit 5-of-6 from the line to help USF draw within 52-44 at the half. Polk returned to the lineup seven minutes into the second half and his third three-pointer cut the VCU lead to 74-67 with 10:19 left.

But the Rams continued to work patiently for high-percentage shots and hit them.

After Polk's three-pointer, Harris missed a driving layup, but forward Kareem Washington tipped the ball in for a 76-67 lead. Harris followed with another three to stem the rally.

The Rams shot 66.7 percent in both halves and USF gave up more points than it had all season.

The Bulls play North Carolina Charlotte Friday in the first round of the Metro tournament.