The South Florida Bulls defeated the Memphis Tigers 74-73 Thursday night at FedExForum on ESPN.
After entering the AP top 10 for the first time this season, Penny Hardaway and his Tigers blew a 20 point lead at home against the Bulls.
Before the game, the University of Memphis asked fans to stay home because of icy road conditions, and there was no band or cheer squad.
Despite these circumstances, the Tigers jumped in front early in the first half. At the under 12 media timeout, Memphis had an 11 point lead.
A pair of and-one layups by David Jones pushed the score to 29-12.
The Tigers went into the locker room with their largest halftime lead of the season, 47-32.
The second half started with a 5-0 Memphis run, pushing the lead to 20, but the Tigers would struggle to score the rest of the game.
South Florida’s Casein Pryor proved to be a matchup problem for the Tiger bigs, and the Bulls went on a 9-0 run to get back within striking distance.
The teams traded buckets for a few minutes, but by the under 12 media break, the Bulls had cut the Tigers lead to 4.
With 7:40 left to play, the Tigers had an opportunity to retake control of the game when Jayhlon Young earned a flagrant foul. He sank both free throws, but Memphis promptly turned the ball over and gave up a USF two on the other end.
The Memphis offense continued to sputter down the stretch, and, after a miscommunication led to a foul, Pryor hit a free throw to give the Bulls the lead with 4 seconds remaining.
Jahvon Quinerly’s game-winner attempt couldn’t bail the Tigers out this time, rimming out as time expired.
The Memphis defense struggled once again to stop dribble penetration in the second half.
South Florida’s switch to a zone completely shut down Memphis’s offense. Zone defenses have plagued the Tigers all season, and other AAC coaches will undoubtedly notice.
In his postgame remarks, Penny Hardaway highlighted chemistry concerns as the main reason the Tigers offense struggled in the second half.
“I don’t even know if this is going to be a wake-up call,” said Hardaway.
The Tigers will need to be awake on Sunday, when they travel to New Orleans to take on Tulane, a team that has given the Tigers fits in recent years.
The game will be on ESPN2 at 12:00 CT.