(Tampa, FL) Mayan Kiir’s big-time block before the buzzer sent things to overtime and USF took care of business at the free throw line down the stretch of a 72-68 victory over East Carolina on Sunday at the Yuengling Center.
USF (17-6, 7-4 in AAC) secured its first five-game winning streak in league play since the 1991-92 season by sinking 16 free throws after David Collins registered the Bulls’ final field goal with 6:09 left in regulation.
Collins finished with a game-high 21 points after making nine of 12 free throws, including three in overtime to help USF go 10-for-14 from the charity stripe in the final five minutes.
Star forward Alexis Yetna missed his second straight game with an injury and Kiir played a huge role in his place. In addition to making the defensive play of the game, the sophomore from Bradenton, Fla., scored eight of his career-high 13 points after USF headed into halftime trailing, 39-28.
Laquincy Rideau made a pair of clutch free throws to tie the game at 62-62 with 12 seconds left in regulation. The redshirt junior guard finished with 12 points and four assists while the Bulls posted their second five-game winning streak of the season, a program first since 1990-91.
Justin Brown added 10 points while freshman forward Michael Durr pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds as USF dominated on the boards by a 46-22 margin.
ECU (9-14, 2-9 AAC) knocked down six of its first eight threes on the way to building a 39-28 halftime lead. The Pirates opened the game with a 17-7 advantage after making their first four shots from long range.
USF answered the bell right after the break and used a 14-2 run to take a 47-45 lead with 12:17 to play. ECU jumped back ahead by three before USF fired back with a 7-0 run and Brown’s three spotted the Bulls a 54-50 advantage.
The Pirates took the lead back with 3:37 left in regulation and stayed ahead until Rideau’s game-tying free throws with 12 seconds remaining. USF pulled ahead for the final time with 1:53 left in overtime on a pair of free throws by Kiir and the Bulls’ defense limited ECU to a 2-for-8 shooting performance from the field in the final period.
“You’ve got to give our guys credit”, said Bulls Head Coach Brian Gregory. “They kind of dug in there in the second half and got just enough stops to put us in some offensive positions where we could score the ball finally and do what we do, which is defend. We didn’t score a basket for the last six minutes or in overtime, but we scored 16 points because we’re an aggressive, hard-charging team and we’ve gotten better shooting the free throws.”
USF travels to Orlando for a War on I-4 clash with rival UCF on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The 7 p.m. matchup will be televised on ESPNews.
ga('create', 'UA-96384574-1', 'auto');