Purvis scores 30 to lead UConn over USF in AAC Tournament
South Florida's Geno Thorpe looks for an open man as Connecticut's Christian Vital defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of American Athletic Conference tournament, Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (Jim Michaud/Journal Inquirer via AP)
By PAT EATON-ROBB
AP Sports Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Rodney Purvis used a career-best scoring night to extend his UConn career.
The senior guard scored 30 points Thursday night, leading the Huskies to a 77-66 win over South Florida in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
"Going into the game, we know what is at stake as a team," Purvis said. "None of us want our season to end right now. So, it was just our mindset the whole entire night."
Geno Thorpe scored 23 points for South Florida (7-23), which lost its final six games and 18 in its last 19.
The Huskies beat USF by 21- and 46-points earlier in the season, but had to fight for this one.
They led by 13 points at halftime and 15 after a Brimah dunk to open the second half.
But, USF went on a 10-0 run from there, and cut the lead to two points several times in the final 20 minutes.
It was 67-65 after a 3-pointer by Thorpe with just under 3 minutes to go.
The Bulls' comeback ended after their star guard fouled out on a charging call less than a minute later. The Huskies scored 10 of the game's final 11 points.
"I was trying to be aggressive, trying to get a basket and penetrate, trying to find a teammate or find a shot for myself," Thorpe said. "The foul was called and I didn't think it was an offensive foul, but that was the ref's decision."
A 3-pointer by Purvis with 35 seconds left sealed the win.
He had 13 in the first half, including a driving two-handed dunk and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions that sparked a 14-2 UConn run that turned a 25-24 game into a 39-26 lead.
Purvis hit nine of his 17 shots from the floor, was 3 of 6 from 3-point range and 9 of 10 from the foul line.
"If anyone follows Purv, he's played some of his best basketball in this tournament and the NCAA Tournament," said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. "When we needed a big play, he came up with it."
South Florida interim coach Murry Bartow was 1-16 after replacing Orlando Antigua in January. He has publicly expressed his desire to get the job on a permanent basis, but several other names have been linked to the position.
"A lot of time on a team that is losing, at some point they'll quit, or in a single game, they'll quit," said Bartow. "Man, these guys, I'm not sure why, but they really, really battled."
UConn's Jalen Adams scored eight points while playing his third straight game on a sprained left ankle. Vance Jackson, the Huskies biggest 3-point threat, was cleared to play after missing the last game with a concussion. He finished with seven points.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
South Florida made 24 baskets, two more than the Huskies. But UConn was 27 of 33 from the free throw line. South Florida committed 23 of the game's 39 personal fouls.
UConn has won five consecutive AAC Tournament games and has appeared in every championship game since the formation of the conference. The last time UConn was a sixth seed in the conference tournament was in 2015. The Huskies lost in the title game that year to SMU.
South Florida: Season is over.
UConn: The Huskies will Houston in the final quarterfinal on Friday night. The tip is set for 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Updated March 10, 2017