David Collins scored 19 points, Justin Brown had 12 and Laquincy Rideau added 10 to guide visiting South Florida to a 77-65 victory against DePaul in the decisive third game of the College Basketball Invitational championship series on Friday night in Chicago.
Balance steered the Bulls (24-14) to the program's first postseason tournament title since the 1989-90 team captured the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship. Nine different players scored for South Florida; only seven players logged minutes for DePaul.
DePaul (19-17) drew within 41-40 on a Femi Olujobi layup with 17:41 left, but was unable to ever even the score during a game in which it never led. The otherwise fatigued Blue Demons received a boost from the return of sophomore guard Devin Gage, who scored a team-high 19 points in his first action since landing in the concussion protocol upon sustaining a head injury in the tournament quarterfinals.
Still, a Game 2 injury to starting senior guard Eli Cain took its toll on DePaul on both sides of the floor. Cain sustained a dislocated wrist and elbow late in the first half of the second game, but DePaul held on for an overtime victory to even the series.
Olujobi notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue Demons and Max Strus (16 points) and Paul Reed (11) also finished in double figures. Often potent from beyond the 3-point line during their tournament run, the Blue Demons shot just 20 percent (4-for-20) from deep on Friday.
South Florida led 39-34 at halftime after DePaul erased much of what had been a 17-point Bulls lead just before the break.
A Xavier Castaneda jumper at the 6:15 mark of the first half put South Florida ahead 37-20, but DePaul surged back into the game with a 14-2 run. Strus, who had been held scoreless to that point while fighting through consistent double teams, scored 10 points during the spurt, including a pair of treys.
The Bulls shot 41.7 percent (15-for-36) in the first half compared to 40.9 percent (9-for-22) for the Blue Demons. South Florida had a 26-13 rebounding advantage in the first 20 minutes, but also was whistled for 13 personal fouls compared to just four for DePaul.
Collins snagged a team-best eight rebounds for South Florida and also had five assists in the game.
--Field Level Media