TAMPA — The Memphis Tigers spent the better part of their New Year's Eve doing everything except dropping the ball.
Instead, they drained it, drove it, dunked it and ripped it off the glass relentlessly, all at USF's expense.
The shorthanded Bulls' formal inauguration into American Athletic Conference play was more like a harsh initiation. Outplayed in virtually every facet by the Tigers (10-2), USF fell behind early and never regrouped in an 88-73 defeat at the Sun Dome.
The win was the Tigers' sixth in a row in the series, and 19th in 22 meetings against the Bulls (9-4), who might have been hard-pressed to match Memphis' athleticism with a full squad.
As it stood, Bulls starting point guard Anthony Collins (knee tendinitis) and key reserve Javontae Hawkins (hip pointer) watched from the bench in warmups.
What they observed was a veritable clinic conducted by the nation's 18th-ranked team, and a determined, dunk-filled effort by 6-foot-10 Bulls freshman John Egbunu (20 points, 14 rebounds), who helped spark a 30-16 Bulls run to end things.
The Tigers finished with a 39-34 rebounding advantage (24-13 in the first half) and scored 47 in the paint to the Bulls' 38. Twenty-six minutes into the game, Memphis had more dunks (six) than USF had assists (five).
The most deflating: guard Joe Jackson's coast-to-coast slam at the first-half buzzer off a simple inbounds pass, giving the guests a 48-32 lead at intermission.
Not that Memphis didn't wreak damage away from the rim.
The American's second-worst 3-point shooting team (29.5 percent) entering the game, Memphis sank three in the first 12 minutes, including 6-foot-9 sophomore Shaq Goodwin's first of the season during a 9-0 Tigers run.
The Tigers finished 8-of-19 from behind the line. USF, the only conference team worse from long range, missed all nine of its tries.
But even as the Bulls clanged in a new year, Egbunu scrapped and slammed underneath. Senior Victor Rudd, meantime, nearly notched his fourth double double (17 points, nine rebounds).
Egbunu's double double was his second of the season, the first coming only eight days earlier. His point and rebound totals both were season highs, as were his six dunks.
Geron Johnson had 19 points and Jackson and Michael Dixon Jr. added 18 each for Memphis. Jackson had 14 points and Dixon 10 in the first half.
Memphis has won its past 10 conference openers.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.