Jacksonville Sports Day

USF: Bulls Capture CBI Title With Program Record 24th Win of Season

Photo by MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times

CHICAGO – USF’s magical second season under head coach Brian Gregory ended with Bulls hoisting the 2019 College Basketball Invitational trophy after defeating DePaul, 77-65, in Friday’s championship game.

USF (24-14) showed its toughness once last time by withstanding a furious comeback by DePaul (19-17) to take the best-of-three series on the road. Despite seeing an early 17-point lead dip down to one, the Bulls responded in a big way after the break to capture the second postseason tournament title in program history.

Gregory’s Bulls completed the top turnaround in the NCAA this season, winning 14 more games than in 2017-18, and accomplished the feat by getting contributions from 12 different players.

In fitting fashion, David Collins led the way with a game-high 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The star sophomore guard from Youngstown, Ohio was named tournament MVP after averaging 18.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.2 steals per game in USF’s six CBI outings, including five victories.

Sophomore Justin Brown scored 10 of his 12 total points in the first half to help USF seize the early momentum. The Bulls sank 10 three-pointers and two were made by redshirt junior Laquincy Rideau, who finished with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and a team-leading three steals.

USF also got eight points apiece from forwards Alexis Yetna and Michael Durr along with senior guard T.J. Lang.

The Bulls had their eyes on the prize from the start, knocking down six three-pointers in the first 11 minutes on the way to building a 37-20 lead. DePaul roared back into the game with a 14-2 run in the final 6:12 of the half to cut USF’s advantage down to 39-34 by the break.

USF’s lead shrank to a point a few minutes into the second half before a Rideau three gave the Bulls an eight-point cushion with 13:12 remaining. Back-to-back buckets from long range by Lang and Yetna got the advantage back up to 10 with less than 10 minutes to play.

In his final collegiate game, Lang continued to step up in a big moment with a jumper that sparked an important 8-0 run for the Bulls. Collins made a three-pointer in traffic to stun the crowd and his free throw later in the run put USF up by 14 with less than five minutes to go.

DePaul didn’t get within singles digits until Max Strus’ free throws with 1:06 left on the clock. USF closed in strong fashion with a 6-2 run to win the program’s first postseason tournament since the 1990 Sun Belt Tournament.

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