TAMPA — If Monday night's grudge match at the Yuengling Center is any sign, the 2018-19 brand of USF basketball will be hardscrabble, low on finesse and high on floor burns.
Not to mention a nightly struggle.
The Bulls rallied from a nine-point first-half deficit and led by as many as 11 in the second before eking out a 74-70 overtime victory against Austin Peay (1-2) before an announced audience of 2,474.
USF heads to the Jamaica Classic, where it faces Ohio and Georgetown later this week, with its first 2-0 record since 2014.
"We're gonna have a lot of these games," Bulls second-year coach Brian Gregory said. "Knockdown, drag-out, WWE, try to figure out how to win it. And we did tonight."
Junior point guard Laquincy Rideau, who hit only two of his first eight free throws, sank a pair with 2.7 seconds remaining to seal things. For the game, USF went 21-for-41 from the stripe.
Guard T.J. Lang's put-back of David Collins' missed jumper gave USF a 71-67 lead with 49 seconds to go in overtime, and Rideau hit one of two free throws 22 seconds later to make it a five-point game.
USF led by 11 with 11:29 to go, but Austin Peay answered with a 17-9 run. The Governors tied the score at 55-all when 7-foot-2 Bulls senior Nik Scekic was whistled for a foul and ensuing technical, resulting in three Governors free throws.
A Zach Glotta 3-pointer gave the guests a 58-55 lead, but USF clawed back, forcing overtime when sophomore Justin Brown hit two free throws with four-tenths of a second to play. The Governors had taken a 63-61 lead on Jarrett Givens' 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining.
Rideau led a balanced Bulls scoring effort with 17 points. USF shot 50 percent from the floor (13-for-26) in the second half after finishing 8-for-28 in the first.
Twenty-two of its second-half points came inside as Rideau and Collins (15 points) got consistent dribble penetration. For the game, the Bulls finished with a 38-16 advantage in points in the paint. LSU transfer Mayan Kiir had 11 points and six rebounds, while 7-foot freshman Michael Durr had 11 boards.
"What can you say?" Gregory said. "I mean, we played hard, we played with great energy and intensity, we played physical, and Austin Peay matched us every step of the way."
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.