ECU (5-8, 0-1) held the lead the entire second half until Marlyn Bryant's free throw pushed USF (8-4, 1-0) ahead, 65-64, for the first time since the 7:07 mark of the first half. The Pirates quickly regained the lead on jumper by Mike Cook, however Dennis made a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to give USF the lead for good.
Dennis' sixth and seventh consecutive made free throws gave the Bulls' a 72-69 advantage with 0:14.7 seconds left. Moussa Badiane's follow dunk with 0:01.4 left gave the Pirates life, but when Bryant intentionally missed his second foul shot with 0:00.9 remaining, the Pirates' were unable to get a good shot as Cook's desperation heave sailed wide.
Trailing by 13 points with 18:45 remaining, USF out-scored East Carolina 27-14 over the next 12 minutes to tie the game at 61-61.
Cook led ECU with a game-high 18 points, while Badiane posted his third double-double of the year with 16 points and a career-best 16 rebounds. Tom Hammonds also netted double figures with 14 points.
USF senior Terrence Leather also poured in 18 points and scored a double-double by jerking 16 boards. Dennis finished with 15 points, shooting 9-of-10 at the foul line.
The Pirates continue conference play Saturday as they travel to Charlotte to take on the 49ers. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 o'clock.