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USF Men’s Basketball Erases 25-Point Deficit, Shocks Stony Brook in First Round of CBI Tournament

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David Collins goes for career-high 31 and we finally figure why everyone’s obsessed with March.

Will Turner / The Daily Stampede

TAMPA - The boxes continue to be checked off for USF men’s basketball after an 82-79 overtime victory against Stony Brook in the first round of the Roman College Basketball Invitational on Wednesday night.

USF completed one of the largest comebacks in program history after being down 25 with 1:59 remaining in the first half. Sophomore guard David Collins poured in a career-high 31 points as the Bulls got back to their intense defense and board-crashing identity.

“We go hard in practice,” Collins said. “Defense is what is going to take us and we try and focus on that. You could just tell in the second half we were a different defensive team and it paid off.”

Collins’ had a three-pointer to give the Bulls a 5-3 lead, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stop a huge first half from Stony Brook’s Akwasi Yeboah, who scored nine points in the first six minutes of the game on the strength of a pair of threes. The Englishman had 16 points alone in the first half on 5-of-10 shooting.

The difference in the second half - Yeboah was effectively taken out of the game, as the Bulls limited him to three points on 1-of-6 shooting in the second half and overtime.

“We gave a little more help [in the second half],” USF head coach Brian Gregory said. “We were so active he never got comfortable and Lex [Yetna] did a much better job on him in the second half.”

The Seawolves started the game on fire from downtown, making five of their first ten shots from deep. They made eight in the first half (their season average was seven), but cooled off in the second half and overtime (1-for-11).

USF went on a 7-0 run in the final 1:12 of the first half to shrink the lead to 18 before the halftime break.

USF turned up the intensity and got back to the smash mouth brand of basketball they play so well. The hosts outscored the Seawolves 36-18 in the second half, which included a 33-8 run throughout the last part of the first half and down to 6:24 in the second.

Freshman center Michael Durr got his baby hook shot working on two straight possessions to tie the game at 56, the first time since it was 17-17 at 10:16 in the first half. The freshman has played so well over the last couple of games and was rewarded with a career-best 13 points in 28 minutes on Wednesday night. He improved his free throw shooting to 14-of-15 (5-of-5 yesterday) over his last three contests.

“He looked good in that second half, didn’t he? Holy smokes,” Gregory said. “We’ve seen that in practice and he’s shown flashes of that. Our guys are comfortable throwing the ball into him.”

The squads battled over the last six minutes, tying the game six times down the stretch. Collins had the tying layup with 59 ticks left to send the game into overtime. He almost had the game-winning layup after he pick-pocketed Jaron Cornish with seconds left on the clock.

Fans at the Yunegling Center had quite the right to be nervous after the last time the Bulls went to overtime, losing to Temple in heartbreaking fashion.

There would not be a repeat performance.

Collins’ three-pointer to start the extra period set the tone as USF led wire-to-wire from there and by as much as nine after a dunk from Durr and a trey from TJ Lang. Xavier Castaneda and Collins iced the game with six (guess what) free throws made between the two of them to give the Bulls the win.

Being down by 25 certainly wasn’t the way that Gregory envisioned the first round to go when he decided to enter the Bulls into the CBI, but it was quite a way to get the program’s fifth 20-win season.

“I talked to some coaches that played in this and have parlayed this down the road into future success. No matter what happened tonight, we needed to learn from what happened. It’s a lot better to learn when you win the game than if you lose it because you get to play again.

“I’m as proud as that team as any team I’ve ever coached,” Gregory said.

Notable:

  • Alexis Yetna had his second double-double in three games with a 15-point, 14-rebound performance. It was his 12th double-double on the season.
  • Durr scored in double-digits for the second consecutive game.
  • Wednesday’s win was the first time since 2012 that USF has won a postseason tournament game - the last was in the 2012’s NCAA Tournament, where the Bulls won against Temple, 58-44.
  • Collins got 15 of his points from the free throw line, shooting 15-of-20. He finished 7-of-14 from the field and 2-of-5 from behind the arc.
  • After being out-rebounded 22-17 in the first half, USF bounced back on the glass, out-rebounding the Seawolves 24-23 in the second half/OT.
  • USF’s 25-point comeback was the largest in the Roman College Basketball Invitational’s 11-year history. The previous largest deficit overcome was in 2015, when UL-Monroe came back from being down 20 at Mercer in the quarterfinals.
  • USF will take on the Western Athletic Conference’s Utah Valley Wolverines at the Yuengling Center on Monday night 7 p.m. UVU took down California State University, Northridge, 92-84, on Tuesday night.

Quotable:

“I was just trying to be aggressive. I work on that every day, so I feel confident in myself to make those plays and I was really trying to be aggressive so I just started shooting them,” - Durr on shooting success.

“We knew we didn’t want this to be our last game and we wanted to go out better than that. We knew we had to fight and get back in the game. We’ve done it before and we knew we had to do it again.” - Collins on getting back in the game.

“I was walking to the tunnel at halftime and a fan said, ‘hey, coach, that’s embarrassing.’ And you know what? He’s right. He’s right. One thing is, all those games last year, no one ever said that to me. It’s because we’ve started to raise what people expect and that’s fine. I’m okay with that. The first thing I told our guys [at halftime] was that. We’ve got a prideful group, we’ve got a group that believes in this school and believes in what we’re building and does not want to do that. And they showed it in the second half.” - Gregory on first half and the program’s expectations.

“We’re not as consistent as we need to be but that’s probably where we’re at in this stage of that building. But we do know it’s in there. There was no change of anything that we did in the second half. It was just our guys playing our brand of basketball - physical.” - Gregory on getting back to the team’s identity.