PEORIA, Ill. — USF can't seem to avoid close games. This time, unlike the previous two, the Bulls avoided a loss.
Chris Perry had 18 points Saturday night and Victor Rudd scored 17 as USF came back in the final minutes to defeat Bradley 61-57.
It was the eighth consecutive USF game decided by five points or fewer. The Bulls (9-4) are 5-3 in that stretch, including this nonconference win at Carver Arena.
"We have been in this situation a lot," USF coach Stan Heath said. "I do feel like the guys are comfortable in that situation. They've been there."
USF trailed 54-49 after a Tyshon Pickett jumper with 7:04 left extended an advantage Bradley (5-8) had maintained for much of the second half. With 3:37 left, Pickett scored again to give the Braves, of the Missouri Valley Conference, a 56-53 lead.
But Corey Allen helped keep the Bulls from losing their third straight game, after two defeats last week in Las Vegas.
Allen's layup with 2:05 left gave USF its first lead in almost 10 minutes. With the score tied at 57 and 1:16 remaining, a foul on Bradley's Ka'Darryl Bell sent Allen to the free-throw line.
Although USF had missed four of its previous seven free throws, Allen made two to give his team a lasting lead.
"The only thing on my mind was closing out the game at the time," said Allen, who scored all his 11 after intermission. "Really, there's no panic when it comes to close games. We've learned how to come together at times like that and just close it out."
Allen made two more free throws after teammate Zach Leday made a key steal, then Allen took a charge on a foul by Walt Lemon.
It all atoned for problems the Bulls had with the Braves' zone defense. For the game, USF made only 3 of 15 3-point attempts (20 percent) and was 12-for-22 (55 percent) on free throws.
"My best free-throw shooters got to the line at the end," Heath said. "It didn't necessarily go well the previous 35 minutes all the time, but the last five minutes of the game, we probably played our best basketball."
Lemon finished with a team-high 17 points. Pickett scored 16.
"(USF) did a good job, but we missed a ton of layups in the last five minutes," said Bradley coach Geno Ford, who like Heath once coached at Kent State.
USF point guard Anthony Collins, who has been sidelined by a knee injury, didn't play, although he did warm before tipoff.