With the game tied at 52 with 6:53 remaining, South Florida's Bo Zeigler had a three-point play to spark a 9-1 scoring stretch for the Bulls that pushed their lead to eight with 3:49 left.
Houston made one final charge, cutting its deficit to one on an L.J. Rose 3-pointer with eight seconds left. After a Corey Allen Jr. free throw pushed the lead to two, Wes VanBeck missed the potential game winning 3 as time expired.
Anthony Collins added 13 points with six assists for South Florida (8-19, 2-12 American Conference), which snapped an 11-game losing skid. The Bulls trailed by five at halftime, just the fifth time in 21 games they have comeback after trailing at the break.
Rose had a career-high 25 points for Houston (9-16, 1-12).