The USF men’s basketball finished off the CBI championship series on top, besting DePaul 77-65 in the third and decisive game on Friday to claim the tournament title.
This marks the program’s first postseason tournament victory since Bobby Paschal’s Bulls won the Sun Belt Tournament championship in 1990.
Sophomore guard David Collins led the Game 3 effort for the Bulls with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists and took home tournament MVP honors.
USF (24-14) came out firing in the first half, going up 37-20 on a Xavier Castaneda jumper with 6:22 left in the period.
However, an elongated cold spell from the field exacerbated by a foul disparity in favor of DePaul (19-17) allowed for the Blue Demons to creep back into the ballgame with a 14-0 run. A LaQuincy Rideau layup as time expired put the Green and Gold up 39-34 heading into the locker room.
With their lead briefly cut down to one a few minutes into the second half, South Florida began to establish separation once again with a huge Collins assisted three by Alexis Yetna putting them up 57-47 midway through the half. Maintaining their double-digit lead minutes later, a clutch Collins bank shot gave the Bulls a 14-point advantage with just under three minutes to play.
DePaul wouldn’t go down quietly on their home floor as after successfully forcing Collins to turn the ball over in a fullcourt trap, Max Strus managed to draw a foul off a three-point shot attempt and sunk all three from the charity stripe to cut USF’s deficit down to seven.
The visitors from Tampa, however, sunk four free throws within the last minute with a Collins layup 18 seconds shutting the door on the tournament and a surprise season for the Bulls.
By winning 24 games this season, USF fell one victory short of matching the win total of the last three seasons combined.
It cannot be stressed enough the unbelievable job done by head coach Brian Gregory and his staff to take this program from only 10 wins a year ago to a postseason tournament championship. One can only imagine what this team will be capable of in the future.