Geron Johnson scored 19 points for Memphis in an 88-73 victory in the conference opener for both teams Tuesday night.
Joe Jackson and Michael Dixon Jr. added 18 points apiece for Memphis (10-2, 1-0), which had eight 3-pointers. The Tigers entered averaging 4.6 3s per game.
"We made 3s," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "That was a big thing. When you make 3s, coach looks good. Making 3-point shots are important."
John Egbunu had 20 points for South Florida (9-5, 0-1), which was without point guard Anthony Collins, who missed his fourth straight game due to left knee soreness.
"This wasn't the way we wanted to start off our first conference game, but it's one game," South Florida coach Stan Heath said. "We've got to put it behind us after we watch the film and look at some of the areas that were costly for us."
South Florida missed all nine of its 3-point attempts.
Heath said Collins is doubtful for Saturday's game against Houston.
Johnson and Chris Crawford made consecutive long-range jumpers that extended Memphis' lead to 60-39 with 14:22 to play. Crawford, who entered averaging 9.4 points, missed his first eight shots in the game.
The Tigers' lead reached 70-43 when Crawford hit another 3. He finished with six points on 2-of-10 shooting.
South Florida pulled within 79-62 on two free throws by Victor Rudd, but Memphis responded by scoring the next five points, including Dixon's layup that made it 84-62.
Jackson had 14 points and Dixon added 10 to help Memphis take a 48-32 halftime lead. Jackson closed out the half with a driving dunk just before the buzzer.
"The first half was really where the game was decided," Heath said. "So many transition baskets, so many offensive rebounds. They won a lot of those hustle plays in the first half. It just really put us in a big hole, and they're too good of a team to put yourself in that situation to try to comeback from."
Memphis made four 3s in the first half. The Tigers had 11 of their 14 offensive rebounds during the opening 20 minutes.
"Overall, we did a good job on the glass and rebounding," Pastner said. "We got a lot of loose balls, and that allowed us to get going in transition, which allowed us to get some easy fast break points."
Dixon had two 3-pointers and David Pellom made a short jumper as Memphis went ahead 30-14 with 6:30 left in the first half.
South Florida pulled within 33-24 when Rudd scored two of his 10 first-half points on two free throws. Rudd had 17 points overall.
Jackson had a layup and Shaq Goodwin connected for a 3 during a 9-0 run to put Memphis up 22-12 midway through the first half. It was Goodwin's first 3-point attempt this season.
Goodwin had five points, well below his 13.5 average.
Memphis has won its last 10 conference openers.
"For us to be able to win on the road against a team like that, that's well coached, it's a real positive," Pastner said. "South Florida is going to win a lot of games in the league. That's a good club."