David Collins had 19 points and eight rebounds as the University of South Florida beat DePaul 77-65 on Friday night in Chicago for the College Basketball Invitational championship.
USF made three 3-pointers in a four-minute span to take the first double-digit lead of the second half at 57-47, and extended it to a 14-point advantage after an 8-0 run. The Bulls led by double figures for five-plus minutes until Max Strus made three free throws at 1:06 to pull to 71-64. Xavier Castaneda sealed it with two free throws at 40.4.
Justin Brown had 12 points for South Florida (24-14), which was picked to finish last in the preseason American Athletics Conference coaches' poll. Laquincy Rideau added 10 points. Antun Maricevic had seven rebounds for the visitors.
"Talk about the grit and the toughness of our team and our program, and what we want to build it on. It's a great stepping stone for where we want to get to,” said USF coach Brian Gregory after the game.
South Florida led by 17 points, 37-20, with 6:15 remaining in the first half but didn't score again until Rideau beat the halftime buzzer with a layup for a 39-34 lead. DePaul went on a 14-0 run during USF's drought to get within three points with 25.7 seconds left.
The Bulls finished the season with a team-record 24 wins, 14 more than they had a year earlier, which is the best win improvement in the NCAA for 2018-19.
Gregory said it’s just a hint of what might come for his team.
“When you've got Laquincy Rideau, and you've got David Collins, and you've got Alexis Yetna, you can win a lot of games. We're going to get even better, I promise you," he said.
USF captured the second postseason tournament title in program history. The last came in 1990, when the Bulls won the Sun Belt tournament. USF also won five postseason tournament games in the same season for the first time in school history.
Devin Gage had 19 points for the Blue Demons (19-17), who never led in the game. Strus added 16 points. Femi Olujobi had 14 points and 10 rebounds.