CINCINNATI (AP) — JaQuon Parker scored five of his 14 points in overtime Saturday, and Cincinnati rallied from an eight-point deficit late in regulation to a 61-53 victory over South Florida.
Cincinnati (21-10, 9-9 Big East) ended the regular season on an upbeat note, trying to generate momentum heading into the conference tournament. The Bearcats lost six of their last nine games, a far different fashion from a year ago.
The Bearcats got hot at the end of last season, winning seven of their last nine heading into the Big East tournament. They reached the title game before losing to Louisville, then went onto the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.
Point guard Cashmere Wright led Cincinnati with 15 points. Center Cheikh Mbodj blocked a shot late in regulation and had four free throws in overtime, finishing with eight points.
Victor Rudd scored 22 for South Florida (12-18, 3-15), which ended the season with yet another disappointment after wasting the late lead. The Bulls failed to win a Big East game on the road this season. They've dropped their last 11 in Cincinnati.
The Bulls tied a school record by winning 22 games last season and went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years. They lost 10 in a row during Big East play this season, leaving them stranded near the bottom of the league.
They broke that long losing streak with back-to-back wins at home heading into the game at Cincinnati. The Bulls finished 0-9 on the road in Big East games.
The Bearcats honored Parker, Wright and Mbodj among their seniors before the final game at home, where they've had trouble all season. Cincinnati was 5-4 in Big East games and 13-5 overall at home.
The Bulls never trailed in the first half, taking advantage of Cincinnati's sloppiness. The Bearcats had 11 turnovers and fell behind by as many as seven points. Rudd led the way, hitting four of his first five shots from behind the arc — his season high for 3s made in one game.
South Florida point guard Anthony Collins went down hard during the half and walked off the court woozy, but returned a few minutes later. Collins had six points and a pair of assists in the half, which ended with South Florida up 28-23.
Wright, who has struggled with his shot since spraining his right knee in mid-January, hit a 3-pointer and a free throw that gave Cincinnati its first lead, 29-28, with 15 minutes to go. The Bulls missed their first four shots and had a turnover.
There were four lead changes in the next 4 minutes. Martino Brock hit a pair of 3s and Zach LeDay hit a 3 that gave South Florida its biggest lead, 45-37, with 5:45 to go.
Wright hit another 3-pointer during a seven-point run that got it down to 45-44. Wright had a chance to give Cincinnati a lead with 14 seconds left, but made only one of his two free throws, tying it at 47-all and setting up overtime.
The Bulls went into overtime without Collins and LeDay, who had fouled out. Rudd scored all their points on a basket and four free throws.