ORLANDO — Despite an abysmal overall record, USF arrived at the American Athletic Conference tournament resembling a team on fire more than one on fumes. Problem was, the Bulls encountered a Memphis club fuming mad.
Exactly a week after embarrassing the Tigers by 24 points on the road, the Bulls (10-22) couldn’t replicate the romp Thursday at Amway Center. Down by as many as 15 in the second half, they rallied before falling 79-77 in a nationally televised showcase for freshman David Collins (career-best 30 points).
"It’s tough," said first-year coach Brian Gregory, whose Bulls were seeking the program’s first three-game win streak in conference play since 2012. "It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you’re playing pretty good basketball and you want to continue to play, and it ends."
Down 79-76, the No. 12 seed Bulls had chance to tie after Memphis’ Malik Rhodes missed two free throws with 18.3 seconds left. Point guard Stephan Jiggetts (16 points) got an open look from the left wing but missed. Justin Brown, fouled with less than a second to play, hit the first of two free throws.
"I actually thought it was going down," Jiggetts said.
It was one of the few shots that didn’t fall in the first-round matchup before an announced crowd of 7,856. The No. 5 seed Tigers (20-12) set a tournament single-game record by shooting 57.1 percent (28-of-49); USF wasn’t far behind at 50 percent (27-of-54). Memphis plays fourth-seeded Tulsa in today’s quarterfinals.
MORE AAC: Ben Emelogu scored 23 to lift No. 9 seed SMU to an 80-73 win over No. 8 UConn. The Mustangs (17-15) face top seed Cincinnati today. … Shizz Alston hit three free throws in the final minute as No. 7 seed Temple avoided the upset, holding off No. 10 Tulane 82-77. The Owls (17-14) play No. 2 Wichita State today.
SEC: Collin Sexton drove the length of the court in the final seconds and hit a floater at the buzzer to give ninth-seeded Alabama a 71-70 win over No. 8 seed Texas A&M in St. Louis. The Crimson Tide (18-14) faces top seed Auburn in today’s quarterfinals. … Yante Maten scored 21 and grabbed 10 rebounds as 12th-seeded pulled out a 62-60 victory over No. 5 Missouri. The Bulldogs (18-14) face No. 4 seed Kentucky today. … Lamar Peters scored 24 as No. 7 seed Mississippi State hit 10 3s in defeating No. 10 LSU 80-77. The Bulldogs (22-10) face No. 2 seed Tennessee tonight.
ACC: Kyle Guy and No. 1 Virginia took down Louisville 75-58 in the quarterfinals in New York. Guy scored 19 in his speedy return from a sprained left knee and the top seed Cavaliers (29-2) weathered a second-half charge. In tonight’s semifinals, they play Clemson, which beat No. 12 Boston College 90-82 as Gabe DeVoe scored 25 and Shelton Mitchell had 21 for the Tigers (23-8). … Marvin Bagley had 33 points and 17 rebounds, Grayson Allen made his first five 3s and No. 2 seed Duke rolled to an 88-70 win over No. 10 Notre Dame. Tonight, the Blue Devils (26-6) face the Miami-North Carolina winner.
BIG 12: Kansas State’s Barry Brown scored the go-ahead layup with 11.2 seconds left in overtime, and Alex Robinson missed a pair of free throws for No. 5 seed TCU, allowing the No. 4 Wildcats to escape with a 66-64 win in Kansas City, Mo. In today’s semifinals, KSU (22-10) faces top seed Kansas, an 82-68 winner over No. 8 Oklahoma State. Malik Newman scored a career-high 30 for the Jayhawks (25-7), who were swept by the Cowboys in the regular season.
Big East: Trevon Bluiett scored 27, Kaiser Gates had 16 and top seed Xavier routed No. 9 St. John’s in New York. In today’s semifinals, the Musketeers (28-4) face fifth-seeded Providence (20-12), a 72-68 winner over No. 4 Creighton. … Jay Wright became the winningest coach in Villanova history with 414, and the No. 2 seed Wildcats (28-4) routed No. 7 Marquette 94-70
Information from Times wires was used in this report.