TAMPA – Following USF’s 63-61 victory over DePaul in the opener of a best-of-three CBI championship series at the Yuengling Center on Monday night, coach Brian Gregory noted how fortunate it was that he has two clutch guards in Laquincy Rideau and David Collins.
Both came up big when it mattered most in the last home game of 2018-19.
Rideau’s three-pointer with 1:54 remaining gave the Bulls a 58-56 lead after they had fallen behind for the first time all night.
With the score tied at 61, Collins took an inbounds pass, drove into the paint and hit a floater with 1.7 seconds remaining. The Blue Demons rushed the ball up the court, but a desperation heave from just inside half court fell well short and came after the buzzer sounded.
A raucous celebration that this venue has not seen in ages ensued with Collins being mobbed by his teammates.
“Laquincy has made big shots for us all year long,” said Gregory. “Then, obviously, we put the ball in David’s hands because of them kind of swarming Laquincy on a couple of possessions. It was up to David to make the read. He made a great read and had just enough of an angle to get the shot up.”
With the victory, which was witnessed by an announced 2,375, the Bulls (23-13) travel to Chicago and will attempt to win the tournament on Wednesday night. Game time is 8 ET and it will be televised on ESPNU. Game 3, if necessary, is Friday at 7 ET and also on ESPNU.
Collins, the Bulls’ leading scorer with an average of 15.7 points coming in, finished with a game-high 23 points.
“It feels great honestly, but I am just glad that we got the win,” said the sophomore guard. “There were some big plays before (my shot) that even gave me a chance to hit the game-winner.”
It is such selflessness that underscores the program’s resurgence. The number in the win columns helps, too, and Monday’s victory was the Bulls’ 23rd to set an all-time program mark.
USF finished 18-5 at home, including the four CBI wins. The Bulls also defeated Stony Brook, Utah Valley and Loyola Marymount.
“We knew this would be our last home game and we wanted to end it with a much better effort, and we did,” said Gregory. “We got 18 wins at home, which is incredible. The four extra home games, I’ve talked ad nauseum how big it was for our program. We continue to build momentum and winning this home game in the fashion that we did, I would have liked to have had it less dramatic, but it was great.”