53 years in the making: No. 25 South Florida beats Charlotte to win their first AAC regular season championship and the win streak is at 14.

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South Florida forward Corey Walker Jr. (15) brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Charlotte on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Chris Youngblood scored 17 points, Kasean Pryor had 16 points and nine rebounds, and 25th-ranked South Florida beat Charlotte 76-61 on Saturday for its 14th consecutive victory. The win clinched the first-ever regular season men’s basketball championship in the 53-year history of the program and assured South Florida of the top seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament.

As usual it was a team effort with Selton Miguel chipping in with 13 points for the Bulls (22-5, 15-1 American Athletic Conference), who haven’t lost since Jan. 7 and entered the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history earlier this week.

Lu’Cye Patterson had 17 points for Charlotte (17-11, 11-5), which had its eight-game home win streak snapped.

Charlotte entered the game looking for its second home victory over a Top 25 team after upsetting then-No. 17 Florida Atlantic 70-68 on Jan. 6.

And the 49ers were sharp early on, jumping out to a 12-7 lead against the Bulls after making 5 of 9 shots to open the game.

But the Bulls would storm back to take a 33-28 lead at the break, stepping up their defense and holding the 49ers to 5-of-18 shooting for the remainder of the first half.

Pryor’s 3-pointer from the corner gave the Bulls their first double-digit lead less than two minutes into the second half and Charlotte never mounted a serious challenge.

Pryor drove across the lane a few moments later, dribbled between his legs and made a step-back jumper from the foul line while drawing a foul for a 3-point play to increase the lead.

Charlotte continued to struggle with missed shots and turnovers in the second half, and Kobe Knox scored on back-to-back offensive rebounds, including a powerful two-handed dunk to push the lead to 17.

There was a controversial moment with 2:47 remaining when Pryor grabbed a defensive rebound and, while struggling to find an outlet due to a three-man trap under the basket, threw a hard pass directly into the face of Charlotte’s Igor Milicic, causing him to fall to the floor.

Officials reviewed the play but determined it wasn’t worthy of an intentional foul.

After the replay was shown on the scoreboard, Pryor was booed loudly every time he touched the ball for the remainder of the game, and the Halton Arena crowd erupted with cheers when he missed a free throw with about two minutes remaining.

Charlotte struggled all day on the glass with center Dishon Jackson spending most of the game on the bench with foul trouble.

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THE BIG PICTURE

South Florida: The Bulls survived their first week in the AP Top 25 in school history with wins over Southern Methodist and Charlotte. They’ve won 20 of their last 21 games overall and have already wrapped up the AAC title and will power into the conference tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. They should be a lock to make the NCAA Tournament even if they falter in conference play.

Charlotte: The 49ers were picked to finish 13th in the AAC this season, but have exceeded expectations and have been competitive in nearly every conference game. The future looks bright in Charlotte under first-year head coach Aaron Fearne.

UP NEXT

South Florida: Host Tulane on Tuesday night.