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USF falls to East Carolina in first round of conference tournament

Sophomore guard Selton Miguel added six points off the bench in the game. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After a rocky regular season, USF men’s basketball was knocked out in the first round of the AAC tournament following a 73-58 loss to ECU on Thursday.

USF finished its season with a 14-18 record, while going 7-11 in the conference. The Bulls earned the No. 8 seed in the tournament, two seeds ahead of their No. 10 spot in 2022.

With yet another losing season and first round tournament exit, this defeat marks the beginning of the upcoming offseason that could be crucial to the future of the program.

Issues with inconsistent scoring continued in this game, with only one Bull scoring double digits. Senior guard Tyler Harris scored 26 points in his final collegiate game, shooting nine of 22 from the field. The remainder of the starting lineup combined scored only 21 points.

The Bulls got off to a quick start, leading by 10 early in the game. However, they closed the first half with a cold offense. Poor offense then plagued the second half, where they were outscored by seven.

ECU junior guard Jaden Walker and sophomore guard RJ Felton torched the USF defense, each racking up 22 points. The Pirates went 45% from the floor in a noteworthy offensive showcase.

Thursday’s loss marked the second straight season the Bulls have exited the tournament without a win. South Florida has not won a conference title since the first AAC tournament in 2014. The loss also marks the departure of several seniors, including Harris and senior forward Keyshawn Bryant.

Coach Brian Gregory reflected on Harris’ final game after the loss.

“I wish I had more time with him. I cherished this year, so did he. It was part of his path to come here and play his last year,” Gregory said.

Harris transferred to USF in 2022 after spending three seasons at Memphis and a short stint at Iowa State. He averaged 16.6 points per game in his lone season as a Bull, leading a team that struggled to consistently generate offense.

The Bulls will now begin to rebuild in the off-season, hoping to acquire new freshman talent and transfers. The transfer portal will open on Monday.