TAMPA — In a young season rife with tangible signs of progress for USF men's basketball, perhaps the most glaring one revealed itself Saturday afternoon at the Yuengling Center.
In a rematch against virtually the same Appalachian State club (4-6) that embarrassed them by 23 points a year ago, the Bulls delivered one of their best collective efforts of the season in a 76-69 triumph on second-year coach Brian Gregory's 52nd birthday.
USF is 7-2 for the first time since 2013.
"We got a lot of good basketball from a lot of guys," said Gregory, whose team was coming off a rare 14-day layoff caused by a weather cancellation of last weekend's game at Charlotte. "I like where we're at right now."
The injury-besieged Bulls women (8-2) provided USF with a Saturday doubleheader sweep, rolling to a 67-50 triumph against Grambling State in the nightcap. Six-foot-1 junior Alyssa Rader led USF, which used only eight players, with 16 points and 16 boards.
But Rader and Co. couldn't upstage the men, who finished with a 48-30 rebound advantage and forced the Mountaineers (4-6) into their second-worst 3-point shooting effort (5-for-22) of the season.
Redshirt junior point guard Laquincy Rideau led USF with 18 points, with no fewer than 10 coming in the paint as he consistently excelled in dribble penetration. Redshirt freshman Alexis Yetna, meantime, notched his fourth double-double (13 points, 18 rebounds) in only his ninth career game.
USF's lone glitches: a 7-for-18 free-throw effort in the last four minutes, and the opening three minutes of the second half, when Appalachian State went on an 11-2 surge to tie the score at 40-all. The Bulls answered with an 11-2 run of their own, highlighted by Yetna's alley-oop dunk from Rideau.
"The great neutralizer for us is always the rebounding and getting to the free-throw line (28 times) and our defensive field-goal percentage, and we hit the mark on all three of those today," Gregory said.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.