Wally Judge scored 14 points and Martino Brock had a game-tying 3-point shot attempt rim out just before the buzzer as Rutgers defeated South Florida 70-67 on Thursday night.
Myles Mack and Eli Carter added 13 points apiece for the Scarlet Knights (12-4, 3-2 Big East), who nearly blew an eight-point lead in the final 3:24.
Jawanza Poland scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half for South Florida (9-7, 0-4), which lost its fourth straight game. Anthony Collins and Victor Rudd added 11 points apiece for the Bulls, who made their first NCAA tournament appearance a year ago.
Rutgers seemed to be in control when Carter, who spent crucial second-half minutes on the bench with four fouls, nailed a 3-pointer to give the Scarlet Knights a 68-60 lead.
Rudd, however, answered with a 3-pointer, and Poland scored on a spectacular alley-oop dunk, grabbing a pass that was behind him and jamming it home to cut the lead to 68-65.
Carter's layup gave Rutgers its final points with 1:48 to go, but Collins closed the gap to 70-67 with a floater with 1:26 left.
After turnovers on both ends of the court, Jerome Seagears missed a 3-pointer for Rutgers with the shot clock running out with 10 seconds to go.
Poland got the rebound and passed it to Collins, who eventually threw the ball upcourt to Brock. He had Poland open in the corner, but he elected to take the shot and it just missed.
Mack ignited and capped an 11-2 spurt at the start of the second half with baskets to give the Scarlet Knights a 38-32 lead that they never lost.
South Florida stayed close for most of the half, drawing to within 45-43 on a 3-pointer by Rudd with 12:47 to go and 56-54 on two free throws by Collins with 7:33 to go.
South Florida, which was limited to 38 points in a 26-point loss to now-No. 1 Louisville less than a week ago, scored 30 in the opening half against Rutgers in taking a three-point lead.
The lead had a lot to do with the Bulls' shooting. After being held to 26.7 percent from the field by the Cardinals, they converted 14 of 26 against the Scarlet Knights in the opening 20 minutes, or nearly 54 percent. Three of the 14 baskets came on alley-oops to a baseline runner and 22 points were scored in the paint.
The 14 first-half baskets were two more than they had in the game against Louisville.
The game had an interesting start. Referee Karl Hess was knocked over accidentally by Judge seconds after the opening jump ball. He got up with a smile.