MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) J.J. Moore scored 13 points, including the final two free throws after grabbing a key offensive rebound, as Rutgers defeated South Florida 72-68 in the opening game of the inaugural American Athletic Conference Tournament on Wednesday night.
With Rutgers, the No. 7 seed, leading 70-68 with 5.7 seconds remaining, Kadeem Jack missed two free throws, but Moore wrestled the rebound away from USF's Victor Rudd, who was called for his fifth foul. Moore converted the ensuing two free throws for the final margin.
With the win, Rutgers will face 5th-ranked Louisville, the tournament's second seed, on Thursday
Jack led the Scarlet Knights (12-20) with 18 points, while Myles Mack added 16. Wally Judge had 15 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.
Rudd scored 22 points to lead the 10th-seeded Bulls (12-20), while Chris Perry had 12 points. Martino Brock finished with 10 as USF lost its final nine games.
USF's woes in the final 8 minutes came from the free throw line, where continual misses kept them from grabbing the lead.
Rutgers led 66-62 with 32 seconds left after Moore split a pair of free throws. Rudd's rebound basket pulled the Bulls within two with just under 19 seconds remaining.
South Florida stayed within four points of Rutgers until Moore's final rebound and free throws.
Rutgers held a 40-37 lead at halftime behind 13 points from Mack, who was 3 of 5 from outside the arc. Judge scored 10 points for the Scarlet Knights, who connected on 52 percent on their shots in the first half.
Rudd had 13 to lead the Bulls, but was 3 of 8 from the field.
There were times in the first half when the teams contended with sloppy play, throwing the ball away and flipping up wild shots.
There were two ties and four lead changes before the break, and Rutgers held the largest lead in the half for either team at six points.
The Scarlet Knights pulled away early in the second half with an 8-1 run as Mack's 3-pointer capped the rally.
Rutgers eventually would extend the lead to 56-44 near the under 12-minute media timeout.
The Scarlet Knights lead was still at 11, when South Florida scored seven straight points to pull within 58-54. During the streak, South Florida went to the free throw line five times, making all of them.
But after that the Bulls missed six straight from the line, preventing them from ever overtaking Rutgers despite getting within 59-58 at one point.