LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- While still sputtering offensively, ninth-ranked Louisville resumed its winning ways.
Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean combined for 21 points in the second half as Louisville rebounded from its worst loss of the season with a 65-57 triumph over South Florida in a Conference USA matchup.
After suffering its first three losses by a combined 10 points, Louisville (21-4, 9-2 C-USA) was routed by Memphis on Wednesday, 85-68. It was less effective on offense in this one but managed to get by South Florida for its 10th win in 11 games.
"We needed a win because our confidence was a little shaken after the Memphis game," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We didn't run our offense very well tonight, but when we did at the end of the game, we got wide-open shots with player movement and ball movement. South Florida played terrific defense all night long."
The Bulls opened the contest with six straight points and maintained a lead until a jumper by freshman Juan Palacios with 8:51 to go in the first half tied the game at 16-16.
"I was extremely pleased with the way we started the game," South Florida coach Robert McCullum said. "I thought our effort and focus was outstanding on both ends of the floor. Our guys came out and played with toughness in terms of things we had to do to execute."
Larry O'Bannon followed with a layup 40 seconds later, capping a 14-2 run and giving the Cardinals their first lead.
With 1:10 remaining in the half, Terrence Leather converted a layup for South Florida, knotting the contest at 24-24. But Ellis Myles made a pair of free throws and Garcia made 1-of-2 to put Louisville ahead at the break.
Leather began the second half with a layup, but the Cardinals followed with a 7-0 run to open a 34-26 lead with 16:50 to go. Garcia kicked off a 13-4 spurt 2 1/2 minutes later with a 3-pointer and Dean ended the burst with a shot from the arc with 11:18 left, giving Louisville a 47-34 cushion.
"We managed to score the first point of the second half, but it seems like the start of the second half was officiated differently," McCullum said. "I know we were fouling some of those times, but they were in the bonus before the first media timeout, and I think that put us on our heels a little bit. It certainly affected the way we defended in the second half."
The Bulls (10-12, 3-8) bounced back with an 8-0 spurt in which Marlyn Bryant scored five points, pulling within 47-42. But South Florida never got closer and fell to 3-17 in the all-time series.
Myles - whose five boards moved him into the top 10 in school history - scored 15 points, Dean and O'Bannon added 13 apiece and Otis George pulled down nine rebounds for Louisville, which shot just 37 percent (20-of-54).
"It's a lack of running our offense," Pitino said. "Three weeks ago, you saw cutting, passing, driving and spacing, and now we're trying to do the look-away, back-door pass when other guys are wide open. We're not doing a very good job of making simple passes. We've just got to get back to the basics and the fundamentals and we'll be fine."
In their last five games, the Cardinals have shot 42 percent or lower four times.
Leather bounced back from the flu to score 18 points and grab seven boards for South Florida, which outscored Louisville in second-chance points, 15-9.
At the half, Louisville held a ceremony honoring its 1980 NCAA championship team. Pitino kept his team on the floor to observe.
"I wanted them to see the difference in how a team is loved when they win a championship because it goes down forever," he said. "I wanted our guys to realize that all of the players are special and that they're all a part of the Louisville family. ... That basketball team could win a championship in this era."