South Florida women dust Central Michigan in OT

86-80: Smith hits key free throws for Bulls in the Shootout opener.

Anchorage Daily NewsNovember 23, 2011 

With her team down by two points with less than one second on the clock, South Florida senior Andrell Smith shot the first of three free throws and then waited an eternity to see whether the ball would spin into the bucket or off the rim at the Great Alaska Shootout

"It was a long time. A minute. It felt like a minute," she said. "I felt my heart drop."

The ball actually took a couple of seconds before it spun off the rim, ruining Smith's chances to beat Central Michigan at the foul line.

She cooly made the next two free throws -- surviving a Central Michigan timeout between the second and third -- to send the first game of the 34th annual Great Alaska Shootout into overtime.

"I knew I was gonna make the next two," Smith said. "I told (coach Jose Fernandez) I had them."

Given five extra minutes -- five real, not imagined, minutes -- Smith and the Bulls scored the final eight points of overtime to knock off Central Michigan 86-80 and advance to the women's championship game at Sullivan Arena today at 4 p.m.

Smith, a 5-foot-8 guard, sank a 3-pointer with less than two minutes left in overtime to break an 80-80 tie and help the Bulls improve to 4-2.

Central Michigan (0-4) got a monster game from 6-foot freshman Crystal Bradford, who pulled down 17 rebounds -- the tournament record is 25 -- to go along with 22 points and four blocked shots. But it was Bradford's foul on Smith, who was attempting a 3-pointer just before the buzzer during regulation, that gave South Florida new life, and it was the Bulls who made the most of the extra time.

Smith finished with 15 points and dished five assists and Kaneisha Saunders poured in a game-high 23 to lead the winners, who the day before got a taste of Alaska on a sled-dog outing.

Saunders said she wasn't willing to try her hand at mushing, even though she was given the option of riding on the runners or in the basket. "It was too cold," she said. Smith was game for both and said she preferred riding on the runners.

Both players are from Florida -- Saunders is from Delray Beach and Smith from Lakeland -- and they shook their heads, almost in misery, when asked if they've ever experienced so much snow and cold. Nevertheless, a Tuesday excursion to Beluga Point resulted in a team-wide snowball fight.

"This is what being an NCAA student-athlete is about," Fernandez said. "Getting to see a beautiful part of the country" and experiencing new things.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

Central Michigan (80) -- Bracey 5-11 6-8 16; Green 8-18 0-2 16; Bradford 9-16 4-8 22; DiGuilio 3-9 2-2 10; Baker 1-10 7-8 7; Miller 2-3 2-2 6; Scott 0-1 1-2 1; Olive 0-0 0-0 0; Tamm 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-69 22-32 80.

South Florida (86) -- McDonald 3-3 0-2 6; Rowe 4-9 0-0 8; Wynne 4-11 2-2 11; Saunders 6-18 10-10 23; Smith 4-12 4-7 15; Johnson 0-1 0-0 0; Conner 2-7 1-2 7; Bernard 1-2 1-2 3; Flowers 0-0 0-0 0; Stringfield 4-10 0-0 11; Carn 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 28-74 20-27 86.

Central Michigan 32 42 \t6 -- 80

South Florida 37 37 12 -- 86

3-point goals -- Central Michigan 2-14 (Green 0-3, Bradford 0-2, DiGuilio 2-7, Baker 0-1, Scott 0-1); South Florida 10-26 (Rowe 0-1, Wynne 1-3, Saunders 1-5, Smith 3-8, Conner 2-4, Stringfield 3-4, Carn 0-1). Rebounds -- Central Michigan 48 (Bradford 17), South Florida 44 (4 with 5). Total fouls -- Central Michigan 19, South Florida 23. Assists -- Central Michigan 15 (Baker 5), South Florida 22 (Smith 5, Bernard 5). Turnovers -- Central Michigan 24 (Green 7), South Florida 23 (Saunders 5). Blocked shots -- Central Michigan 9 (Bradford 4). Steals -- Central Michigan 7 (Bradford 3), South Florida 11 (Wynne 3, Bernard 3). Fouled out -- none. Officials -- Daily, McNew, Tovoli.

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