A USF men's season that has produced bits of history and moments of hysteria now has produced a piece of hardware.
Behind 19 points and eight rebounds from tournament MVP David Collins, the Bulls (24-14) topped DePaul, 77-65, in Game 3 of the best-of-three College Basketball Invitational (CBI) finals Friday evening to clinch the program’s second postseason championship.
It comes 29 years after the first, the 1990 Sun Belt Conference tournament title that gave Coach Bobby Paschal’s team an automatic NCAA tourney berth.
USF’s 14-win improvement from last season ― when the Bulls finished 10-22 ― is the largest in Division I this season.
In addition to winning a program single-season record 24 games, the Bulls also established school season records for points, rebounds, 3-pointers, free throws made and free throws attempted.
Justin Brown contributed 12 points for USF. Laquincy Rideau added 10.
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.
USF 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.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.