TAMPA, Fla. – Preston Knowles scored nine of his 12 points in the final 3:35 and Louisville made 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch Sunday to hold off South Florida 86-77 in the Cardinals' Big East road opener.
Freshman Stephan Van Treese posted career highs of 12 points and 14 rebounds for Louisville (13-2, 2-0) which won for the second straight time since a 15-point loss to Kentucky knocked the banged-up Cardinals out of the Top 25.
South Florida (6-11, 0-4) went nearly six minutes without scoring while falling behind 71-65 and was limited to four field goals in the final 9:43.
Augustus Gilchrist led USF, which has lost six straight, with 25 points. Jawanza Poland and Shaun Noiega added 14 each.
Louisville won for the 11th straight time in a series that dates to the days the teams were rivals in Conference USA. USF fell to 3-25 all-time against the Cardinals, who are playing without several key players who are injured.
Knowles, who had been averaging 20 points over his previous five games, was limited to 16 minutes because of foul trouble.
But the 6-foot-1 senior came up big when it counted most, making a jumper for a 7-point lead with 3:35 to go and hitting a long 3-pointer with the shot clock winding up to put Louisville up 76-68 with 2:08 remaining.
The Cardinals sealed the victory from the foul line in the final 97 seconds, with Peyton Siva going 4 for 6 before Terrence Jennings made a pair of free throws and Knowles hit four straight to end the game before an announced crowd of 4,375 at the Sun Dome.
Jennings, who had two dunks and a layup during a 10-0 run that USF answered with a 10-0 spurt of its own, joined Knowles and Van Treese in leading Louisville with 12 points. Van Treese had been averaging 2.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
With Knowles on the bench for the final 13:47 of the opening half, Louisville didn't really got into sync offensively until Jennings keyed the surge that carried the Cardinals to 64-55 lead with just over 12 minutes to go.
USF, which has led during the second half of 10 of its 11 losses, came right back with a 10-point run of its own to remain the lead for the final time, 65-64, with 9:43 left. But as they have so many times this season, the Bulls faltered down the stretch.
Chris Smith's driving, high-arcing layup over 6-foot-11 Jarrid Famous put Louisville on top for good. Mike Marra followed with a 3-pointers, then Gorgui Dieng added a pair of free throws for a 71-65 advantage. The closest USF got the rest of the way was five points.
Dieng finished with 10 points.