American University, plagued by 20 turnovers and 40 percent shooting from the field, dropped its second consecutive game, losing, 86-75, to South Florida tonight in the first round of the Miller Lite Classic.
In Saturday's consolation game at 7 p.m., the Eagles (5-2) will play Virginia Tech, an 83-82 overtime loser to Miami (Ohio), which will play South Florida in the championship game.
The Bulls, who improved to 5-4, were paced by senior point guard Tom Tonelli. Tonelli scored a game-high 24 points and made several clutch free throws down the stretch to thwart a rally by the Eagles. Keith Jordan and Martin Teal each had 17 points for South Florida.
American, which trailed at the half, 40-29, and by 19 points midway through the second half, closed within 10 with 1:22 remaining. But Tonelli sank six straight free throws, and the Eagles never got closer.
Chuck West and Frank Ross led American with 18 points each.
"I felt we had to force the action and hopefully have them commit more turnovers than we committed ourselves," said American Coach Ed Tapscott. "That didn't quite work out. We still have to play two halves of basketball. We made too many mistakes in the early going."