After its biggest win of the season — a 75-73 victory at Memphis on Feb. 8 — USF men’s basketball (11-16, 4-10) has found itself on its second four-game losing streak of the season, falling to Houston, Tulsa, Wichita State and UConn after leaving Tennessee.
However, all the losses have come in games the Bulls had opportunities to win, with the worst being a 10-point loss to Wichita State on Thursday.
Although the Bulls played well in stretches during the skid, they have not been able to put together complete performances, according to coach Brian Gregory.
“We’ve got to get things going a little bit on the offensive end,” Gregory said. “For 80 minutes last week, 70 of those 80 minutes were really good. But you need 80 when you go on the road against two tough teams in Wichita State and UConn.”
The Bulls look to end their losing streak Wednesday night against East Carolina at the Yuengling Center (7 p.m., TV: ESPN3, Radio: Bulls Unlimited), though ending it won’t come easy.
The Pirates (11-17, 5-10) come into town with the AAC’s leading scorer, Jayden Gardner, who averages 20.2 points. In the team’s first matchup this season, a 62-59 ECU win in Greenville, North Carolina, Gardner finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and blocked the potential game-tying 3-pointer in the dying seconds of the game.
“[Gardner is] probably the premier player in the league,” Gregory said. “Leading scorer in the league, a really tough matchup for just about everybody that he’s faced. We’ve got to do a great job defensively on him.”
The Bulls also have to worry about ECU guards Tristen Newton and J.J. Miles, who have had a growing impact the last several games.
“Newton’s got a chance to be one of the dynamic guards in this league,” Gregory said. “He’s got great size, length, can score the ball, has got a knack to put the ball in the basket. He’s that consummate combo guard who can play with the ball and play off the ball.
“Miles can really shoot it, you can’t leave him. He is a great complement, but he’s more than that. He’s scoring in more areas than just catch and shoot.”
Despite ECU’s sub .500-record, Gregory said the Pirates represent the same challenge as every team in the AAC.
“What you’re starting to see is that the teams that over the last three or four years have been in the bottom of the barrel and not being able to get any quality wins are now much, much improved,” Gregory said. “This league from top to bottom, in at least the three years that I’ve been here, is as good as it gets.”