USF upsets No. 24 FAU in second-half thriller

The Bulls have now taken down two ranked opponents this season – the first time this has happened since defeating Seton Hall and Louisville in 2012. ORACLE PHOTO / JUSTIN SEECHARAN

It was a game USF men’s basketball had circled on its schedule all season. It was a game against a program that made the Final Four last season. It’s a game with major postseason implications on the line. 

In front of a sold-out Yuengling Center crowd of 10,659 fans, The Bulls (19-5, 12-1 AAC) didn’t seem to mind. 

Related: USF men’s basketball is surging as FAU matchup nears. So is its attendance.

USF survived a second-half comeback to take down No. 24 FAU 90-86. 

The Bulls led by as much as 25 during the second-half — a lead that dwindled to one with just seconds to play.

The Owls (20-6, 10-3 AAC) wouldn’t go away quietly. This was a team that took down several of the top teams in the nation this season – such as then No. 4 Arizona on Dec. 23 and No. 12 Texas A&M on Nov. 24. 

FAU went on a 39-17 run during the final eight minutes of play as the Bulls’ defensive efforts began to dwindle. 

As the two teams traded trips to the free throw line, the Owls picked away at the Bulls’ lead. 

A three-pointer by Owls senior guard Johnell Davis closed the gap to within one as a stunned crowd sat and watched. 

A few Youngblood free throws iced the game, as the Owls failed to make their last couple of shots. 

USF men’s basketball hasn’t seen a sold-out crowd in over 20 years. Bulls coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said he was trying to soak up the moment as much as he could. 

“I’m very grateful and thankful for how the students have embraced me,” he said at a postgame press conference. “I’ve tried to be intentional about my relationship with them and go out to them.” 

This season, the second half proved to be USF’s strong suit. Against FAU, the opposite became true. 

The Bulls came out of the gates hot. 

USF built an early double-digit lead led by its senior guard duo Chris Youngblood and Selton Miguel. 

With just over two minutes in the half, Miguel splashed consecutive three-pointers, pushing the Bulls’ lead to 46-29. 

Youngblood and Miguel combined for 31 first-half points – matching FAU’s total. The Bulls headed into halftime with a 46-31 lead. 

Abdur-Rahim said he wasn’t surprised that his two veteran guards were the ones leading the charge.

“Anytime I hear a ball bouncing in the gym, l look out my office window and it’s one of those two,” he said. “Those dudes work their faces off.” 

The Bulls extended their winning streak to 11 games and now holds a two-game lead for first place in the American Conference. 

Abdur-Rahim shared a different perspective on why he thought this moment was so significant.

“It was a big game because it was the next opportunity for us to grow,” he said. “It was an opportunity for us to take a step forward towards our ultimate goal.”

The ultimate goal in mind could end up in a trip to the NCAA tournament. After defeating two nationally ranked opponents, it may be hard for the selection committee to ignore the Bulls for much longer. 

Men’s basketball will face UTSA on the road Wednesday at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and Bulls Unlimited.