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Takeaways from USF’s dramatic win over No. 10 Memphis

USF recorded its first win against an AP-ranked opponent since 2012 with another wild comeback USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Senior guard Selton Miguel scored 23 points off the bench as USF pulled off the upset over No. 10 Memphis 74-73 on the road Thursday evening.

The Bulls (10-5, 3-1 AAC) battled back from a 20-point deficit early in the second half to stun the Tigers (15-3, 4-1 AAC), the second-largest comeback in school history.

The win breaks South Florida’s 37-game losing streak against top-25 opponents and its first win in the FedEx Forum since 2019.

Related: USF men’s basketball stun No. 10 Memphis in thrilling comeback

“This is a win for the University of South Florida,” USF head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said in a Friday press conference. “This is a win for Tampa Bay, our community and for our athletic department.”

The Bulls needed all the clutch moments they could get five days after a comeback win over Rice on Jan. 12.

Junior forward Kasean Pryor went for 29 points in that contest and had another big game against Memphis, adding 21 points and 10 rebounds.

“Coach Amir allows me to be who I am on and off the court,” Pryor said at Friday’s press conference. “The freedom that he’s given me has allowed me to grow and become who I always thought I was, who I could be.”

The performance marks the JUCO transfer’s third double-double of the season. 

Related: Pryor leads Bulls’ second-half comeback against Rice

Pryor’s game-winning free throw with 6.8 seconds remaining broke a 73-73 tie before Memphis senior guard Jahvon Quinerly’s buzzer-beating attempt bounced off the rim.

Bench scoring becoming a key to success

Bench points were a major factor for South Florida again, putting up 27 points with a majority coming from Miguel’s 23. 

The Bulls’ bench averages 27.9 points per game. It ranks 36th in the country and second in the conference.

They have outscored opposing benches in 13 of their last 15 games and continued to give this team a spark Thursday evening.

South Florida used its bench performance and strong defense to go on 11-5 and 16-7 point runs to bring the game within reach. 

Three-point shooting was effective as well for USF, especially down the stretch.

Led by Miguel and Pryor, USF shot 33.3% from behind the arc, including three threes in a row in the second half to spark the comeback.

Resilience and grit 

The Bulls are making a habit of late-game dramatics and comeback wins this season, winning two straight in this fashion. 

The experience of going down big and being able to stay in games will be huge for this team’s growth.

“It’s not just about beating Memphis, it’s about us,” Abdur-Rahim said. “We grew again last night. The resolve that they showed, the poise that they showed down the stretch, it was huge.”

South Florida hustled its way back into this game after halftime, creating eight turnovers to Memphis’ three with 10 points coming off those turnovers.

The Bulls got to the line seven times after the break, making seven foul shots to pull the game closer.

Defense and tough rebounding locks down high-flying Tigers

USF’s zone defense came alive and frustrated the Tigers’ 36th ranked offense throughout the second half. Memphis was held to just 23 points after the break after scoring 47 points and shooting 47.4% in the first period. 

The Bulls had a tough time slowing down the Tiger’s big men in the first half, losing the points in the paint battle 28-4. 

They managed to flip the script after halftime, matching Memphis 14-14 in the paint and nullifying the Tigers’ size advantage. 

The tough play down low also allowed the Bulls to out-rebound Memphis 20-16 after the break,  which led to 11 second chance points.

The Bulls will look to keep this momentum going on Sunday when they take on Wichita State in the Yuengling Center.

“It’s important to win Sunday because it’s the next game,” Abdur-Rahim said. “Just like we weren’t going to make the Memphis game bigger than it was, we’re not going to make the game Sunday bigger than it needs to be. It’s still about growth, it’s still about getting better.”

USF will match up next against Wichita State in the Yuengling Center Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.