The Bulls made history and advanced to the College Basketball Invitational championship series, as they defeated Loyola-Marymount 56-47 on Thursday night at the Yuengling Center.
The victory tied USF’s single-season record for wins with 22 and set a new season record for postseason wins with three. The Bulls have now won 12 more games than they did last year, ranking third in the NCAA in win improvement.
“It’s a great win for our program, it’s a great win for these guys,” coach Brian Gregory said. “To get to 22 wins for our guys, it’s a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment.”
In a game where the leading scorers, David Collins and Alexis Yetna, tallied just 11 points, defense from both teams was on full display. The Bulls clamped down and managed to keep any Lions player from scoring in double-figures.
It was a tale of two halves for the Bulls. The first half was back-and-forth with the game tied at 22 heading into halftime.
The Bulls came storming out of the gates to start the second half, going on a 17-4 run. Loyola-Marymount made a run to close the gap to within a possession with just under seven minutes to go, but the Bulls were able to hit their free throws down the stretch and keep the game out of reach.
“It was a defensive battle and what happened during that stretch where we extended the lead was our defense led to some really good offense,” Gregory said. “We were able to get out into transition and get some easy baskets.”
Yetna recorded his 14th double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. He has recorded a double-double in each of the three games of the CBI.
Laquincy Rideau, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Thursday, did a little bit of everything as he scored all nine of his points in the second half and recorded four assists and four rebounds while grabbing three steals.
“We’re playing for a championship, so guys are amped up,” senior T.J. Lang said. “We’re not trying to let this be the end of us.”
The Bulls will face off against DePaul in the first game of a best-of-three championship series Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Yuengling Center. Games 2 and 3, if necessary, will be at DePaul on Wednesday and Friday.
This will mark the first time in program history they will be playing a game in the month of April.
When asked if the team had three games left in them, Lang and Yetna both said one word.