Bulls’ defense leads way against Utah Valley in second round of CBI

Alexis Yetna (10) recorded his 13th double-double of the season as USF men's basketball advanced to the semifinals of the CBI on Monday night. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

The Bulls’ defense led the way against Utah Valley, as USF men’s basketball advanced to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational with a 66-57 win Monday night at the Yuengling Center.

USF forced the Wolverines to commit 20 turnovers. Guards Laquincy Rideau and David Collins swarmed the opposing ball handlers as they combined for nine steals.

“Those guys are older and strong and physical,” coach Brian Gregory said of Utah Valley. “Mayan [Kiir], Antun [Maricevic], [Alexis Yetna] and [Michael Durr] will be in the cold tub because that was a slugfest around the basket.”

USF held the WAC’s Player of the Year, Jake Toolson, to just seven points and forced six turnovers.

The Wolverines went into the game averaging 77 points and were in the top 20 in the country in field-goal percentage. The Bulls held the Wolverines to their second-lowest scoring total of the year.

“We have got some guys playing good basketball right now,” Gregory said. “We were able to make some plays that even a month ago we wouldn’t have recognized or made the right decision.”

Yetna dominated the first half with 15 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field. He recorded his 13th double-double of the season, finishing with a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.

“I just tried to be ready, play hard and let it come to me,” Yetna said. “This team is unselfish, so you just got to know your role and when the ball comes to you, make the right play. That’s what it’s all about.”

With under 10 minutes left and the Bulls up two, USF pulled away as it went on a 15-2 run to put the game out of reach.

Collins finished with 17 points and Rideau added 14.

“To play at home and play with the seniors, we're trying to extend it as far as we can. It’s just a great feeling getting a win at home,” Collins said.

The victory gives USF its second-most wins in a single season with 21. The victory also ties the most postseason wins in Bulls history with two.

USF will look to break that record when it plays in the semifinals against Loyola-Marymount on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Yuengling Center.