The Vikings (13-1) trailed by as many as seven in the opening half and entered halftime down 26-24 after shooting 11 of 34 from the field (32.4 percent).
With the score tied, 44-44, for the 11th time at the 11:53 mark of the second half, Cleveland State went on a 17-7 run to take a 51-41 lead with 4:27 to go.
The Bulls (6-7) turned the ball over five times and were 1 of 5 from the floor during that stretch.
Jarrid Famous scored 22 points and had 11 rebounds to lead South Florida. Ron Anderson Jr. grabbed 13 rebounds as the Bulls posted a 49-26 advantage on the boards.
The Vikings, who were coming off a 74-63 loss to West Virginia on Dec. 18, forced 24 South Florida turnovers while turning the ball over themselves just four times.
John Calipari: Success 'based on African American families trusting me with their child'
Kentucky coach John Calipari acknowledged Friday the impact black players have had on his career and said he will do more to help minorities gain access to opportunities.
DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto retiring after 18 years
Jean Lenti Ponsetto, who played four sports at DePaul and has served as athletic director for the past 18 years, is retiring.
Oklahoma State given one-year NCAA tournament ban, will appeal
The NCAA Committee on Infractions on Friday placed Oklahoma State's men's basketball program on three years of probation and banned the Cowboys from playing in postseason tournaments next season.