New Orleans 22, South Alabama 20: It was college basketball and maybe the genesis of a college bas ketball landmark innovation -- a 45-second shot clock.

The Sun Belt Conference may be a newcomer to the big time, but that result of its stall-ball tournament final a year ago in Charlotte helped provoke an experiment that could show the way for the rest of the NCAA, which is all eyes. Says Sun Belt Commissioner Vic Bubas, a new member of the nine-man NCAA Division I basketball committee:

"The 45-second shot clock allows a tease, a deliberate style of play and permits an offensive team to run its plays through several options. A team need not hurry. In fact, the average team takes a shot in about 13 seconds.

"The finest compliment our shotclock experiment and receive is the general feeling it does not seem to affect play. That's precisely what it was designed to do: eliminate no-action situations while not interfering with vital game strategy."

The former Duke coach wants no part of an NBA-style 24-second clock discouraging pattern play, or even of the 30-second limit used in college women's basketball. In fact, the Sun Belt's 45-second clock is shut off for the final four minutes of play.

But, as Bubas states, "We ask for people to contribute toward our scholarship programs, to buy season tickets... I believe we owe them action."