LAS VEGAS – Santa Clara used an 11-1 scoring run over the final 3:47 to defeat the University of South Florida men’s basketball team 66-65 Monday night at Orleans Arena.
The Bulls (8-4) dropped its second consecutive game and earned fourth place in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. The Broncos (7-6), in the first-ever meeting between the two programs, took home third place.
One day after its best free throw shooting performance of the season (80.0 percent) in a 71-66 loss to Mississippi State, USF shot just 37.5 percent (9-of-24) from the charity stripe.
“That was a tough one to lose,” said USF coach Stan Heath. “We did everything you would think would give you a win except make free throws. We outshot them. We outrebounded them. We played hard and played well as a team. But we can’t go 9-of-24.”
The Bulls primarily played around the basket as evidence of their rebounding advantage (37-31) and their points scored in the paint (44-20). Freshman center John Egbunu helped out tremendously with his first career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, five offensive.
“He came to life,” said Heath of Egbunu. “We had a long talk after yesterday and I thought he got the message clear. He did a great job bringing energy and going aggressive to the basket.”
Senior Victor Rudd, who was named to the all-tournament team, continued his string of good games with 19 points and nine rebounds. Rudd scored in double-figures for the eighth straight game despite an injury to his left ring finger suffered in practice on Saturday. Reigning American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week had 11 of his 13 points in the second half, but left a lot of scoring at the free throw line where he was 1-of-7.
USF trailed early in the contest until a run of six unanswered points gave the Bulls their first lead of the game at 19-17 with 5:15 to play in the half. The two teams traded scores until halftime with five of the games’ 14 lead changes during the final five minutes. Santa Clara led 28-25 at the half.
The Broncos took their largest lead of the game, 32-26 at the 18:41 mark in the second half. However, the Bulls went on a 34-17 run to take their largest lead of the game, 60-51, with 5:30 to play. The Broncos answered again with a 13-3 run, capped off with a 3-pointer by Jared Brownridge for their first lead of the game in nearly 10 minutes, 64-63 with 55 seconds remaining.
Junior guard Shemiye McLendon, who made his first career start, made a tough left-handed layup to give the Bulls a 65-64 lead with 28 seconds to play. USF was then called for a foul which allowed Brownridge to go to the line and make two free throws to take a one-point lead.
With 8.2 seconds remaining, USF inbounded the ball next to its bench. Rudd drove to the left, lost control of the ball against the Broncos’ defense, but gathered it in time to shoot a guarded three-pointer which fell short.
Brandon Clark led Santa Clara with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists.
USF will next be in action on Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. at Bradley.