David Collins’ floater in traffic with 1.7 seconds left gave USF men’s basketball a 63-61 win in game one of the best-of-three College Basketball Invitational Finals inside the Yuengling Center on Monday night.
After DePaul tied the game at 61-61 on an Eli Cain three-pointer with 11 seconds left, Collins took the inbound pass in the backcourt with seven seconds remaining and drove to the hoop, split the defenders and dropped in the floater to give the Bulls their program-best 23rd win of the season.
“[DePaul] denied our inbound play, so I had to take it from the backcourt,” Collins said. “Basically after that, I knew the screen was coming up and [the defender] went left, so I feel like I crossed over and their big man was right there, so I picked the ball up, I split it and shot a floater and it went in.”
Collins paced the Bulls with a team-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and 4-of-7 from three, but none bigger than his final shot of the evening.
USF led by as many as 11 midway through the second half thanks to back-to-back three’s from Collins, but the Blue Demons clawed their way back into the game and took a 54-53 lead on a Max Strus three with 4:32 left to play.
After each team traded pairs of free throws, and the Bulls still down one, junior point guard Laquincy Rideau drilled a three from the top of the arc to give USF a 58-56 lead with under two minutes to play.
Rideau finished second on the team with 15 points after sitting the final ten minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul. Redshirt freshman Alexis Yetna joined Rideau on the bench in the first half after getting two fouls in the first two minutes of the game. The Frenchman still ended up with 10 points, and eight rebounds on the night.
Guards Justin Brown and TJ Lang teamed up to slow down Strus, who was averaging over 31 PPG during the CBI. Strus managed just four points in the first half (he finished with 17) and only made one three in the entire game after making over 40% of his three’s in the tournament. The Bulls also held DePaul to their fewest points in a game all season, and 17 points below their season average.
USF will look to win its first postseason tournament since the 1990 Sun Belt championship in game two on Wednesday in Chicago. The game will tip at 8 p.m. and will be shown on ESPNU.