TAMPA — The way things began for USF on Saturday night against East Carolina, it looked like yet another dispiriting defeat was likely.
The Bulls came out lethargic, trailing 11-2 before they could blink. By the second media timeout, they were doubled-up in the rebound column and interim coach Murry Bartow looked ready to explode out of his suit jacket in frustration.
But, in a matter of moments, everything clicked. USF tied it off an array of ECU miscues, sustained the onslaught with a 17-0 surge into the second half and held on late for a 64-55 victory at the Sun Dome.
The triumph, in front of an announced 2,901, snapped a 12-game skid for USF (7-17, 1-12 AAC) and gave Bartow his first win since taking over for the fired Orlando Antigua on Jan. 3.
"I'm just happy for the players, because they've been through a lot," Bartow said, choking back tears. "My gosh, they just never stopped trying to play."
Led by Geno Thorpe's game-high 22 points — and clutch free throws down the stretch to keep USF ahead as a 15-point lead slipped to four late — the Bulls shot 43 percent and committed a season-low nine turnovers.