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Men’s basketball looks to continue hot start against Tulane

Second-year head coach Brian Gregory and the USF men's basketball team will attempt to improve its AAC record Wednesday against Tulane. 
SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS

After a dramatic buzzer-beating loss to Tulsa on Saturday, USF men’s basketball (11-3, 1-1) refuses to let its first conference loss leave a negative impact as the Bulls continue their AAC schedule against Tulane (4-10, 0-2) on Wednesday night at the Yuengling Center.

Sophomore guard David Collins said he is encouraged by the team’s progress, despite a few narrow defeats.

“In our three losses we haven’t lost by a big margin,” Collins said. “They have gone down to the wire. It means we are always in the game, and that’s big.”

The Bulls have already won more games than all of last season, surpassing the 2017-18 season’s total of 10 victories, and the progression of the team on a daily basis is encouraging to coach Brian Gregory.

“You know we are getting better,” Gregory said. “That was the most important thing as far as this stage of where we are at as a program. Are guys individually developing and are we developing as a team? I think the answer to both of those questions is ‘yes.’”

The development of the Bulls' backcourt has contributed to the 11-3 start. Collins and redshirt junior point guard Laquincy Rideau have a combined average of 28 points per game. Rideau leads the young Bulls squad with 5.6 assists per game.

“There is no doubt that [Rideau] and [Collins], in many ways, set the tone and tempo for the team,” Gregory said.

Gregory, in his second season as head coach, said he understands that to build a sustainable program, the right attitude will determine the success of this team.

“There has to be an urgency with the work we are putting in,” Gregory said. “At the same time, there has to be a patience with the process. That is a fine line that you have to walk, but I like the energy and the intensity that our guys play with. I like the grit they play with.”

One example of Gregory’s process is in 6-foot-8-inch redshirt freshman Alexis Yetna, who has become an important part of the team. The Paris native leads the AAC in rebounds with 10.9 per game and averages 11.9 points to go along with his six double-doubles this season.

“[Yetna] is a prime example of the development of a skill package,” Gregory said. “Not just playing hard. You can’t teach the knack he has to get the ball.”

The current success is something to appreciate, but Gregory prefers a more forward-thinking approach.

“When you step back you still look at the future of where we can get to and how big the buzz could be,” Gregory said. “We are going to get there. We just have to make sure we are doing it along the right process.”