No. 25 USF men’s basketball secures regular-season conference title in win over Charlotte

With their 72-69 win over Charlotte, the Bulls have been crowned American Conference regular season champions for the first time. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

On Oct. 9, the Bulls were projected to finish 9th out of 14 teams in the American Preseason Coaches Poll

Nearly five months later, USF has clinched its first-ever regular season AAC conference title. 

With their 76-61 win over Charlotte on Saturday, the Bulls (22-5, 15-1 AAC) have secured the No. 1 seed heading into the AAC tournament. 

It marks the Bulls’ second win over the 49ers this season. They previously downed Charlotte (17-11, 11-5 AAC) in a 72-69 comeback spectacle on Feb. 6 to initially move into first place in the conference. 

Related: Bulls claim first place in the conference with comeback win over Charlotte

Playing their first game as a ranked team, the Bulls headed into a formidable road environment against the 49ers. They extended their program-record winning streak to 14.

After a first half that saw seven lead changes, the Bulls built a five-point lead off the back of senior guard Selton Miguel.

Miguel scored three straight buckets down the stretch to close the first half.  A putback by junior forward Corey Walker Jr. pushed the lead to five, heading into the break with a 33-28 lead. 

USF came into the game with a 13-0 record when leading at the half.

Saturday’s matchup was no different from those previous outings. The Bulls did what they’ve done all season and dominated in the second half.

USF shot 55% in the second half, while the defense shut down Charlotte’s top scorers.

The 49ers shot only 14% from beyond the arc during the second frame. The 49ers offensive leader – junior guard Lu’Cye Patterson – shot only three for nine during this span. 

A three-pointer by senior guard Chris Youngblood with just under eight minutes to play put the Bulls up by a game-high 18 and silenced the Charlotte crowd. 

Youngblood led the team in scoring – racking up 17 points, and making six of his 10 shots from the floor. 

With the win, the Bulls are nearly guaranteed to make their second-consecutive AP poll appearance on Monday. 

USF has two games left in the season before it heads to Fort Worth for the AAC Tournament – a home game against Tulane on Tuesday before its final regular season game versus Tulsa. 

Related: How USF could make – or miss – the NCAA tournament

Just over two weeks away from bracket selection, Bulls coach Abdur-Rahim believes his team has shown the nation that they’re worthy of an NCAA tournament bid.

“All this team has done is what we’ve been asked to do, grow,” he said. 

Men’s basketball will host its final home matchup against Tulane on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+ and Bulls Unlimited.