USF looking to end skid in New Jersey

MEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMEUSF (10-7, 1-3) at Seton Hall (10-6, 0-3)When: Tonight, 7:30Where: Prudential CenterTV/Radio: Catch 47/1250 AM

Losing three consecutive conference games has the USF men’s basketball team on the outside of the Big East Tournament looking in. But the Bulls remain focused on the present – not the future.

For the Bulls (10-7, 1-3), the present consists of a road trip to Newark, NJ to take on the Seton Hall Pirates, (10-6,0-3).

“We need to start playing with a sense of urgency,” freshman guard Dominique Jones said. “We’re not in panic mode or anything, because it’s just three games … we’re just taking it one game at a time.”

The Bulls opened conference play with a convincing 68-45 win over Rutgers. Since then, USF has been a different team.

The Bulls have been out-shot, out-rebounded and out-defended by the opposition. Coach Stan Heath has been trying to get his team back on track. However, he is learning first hand that the Big East is one of the nation’s toughest conferences.

“The competition, without question, has picked up. But, at the same time, I think we’ve been a little bit snake bitten,” Heath said. “Going into the game against Providence, they’re shooting below 30 percent from (three-point territory), and (Providence) shot 60 percent. I know that they’re probably going to be a little better than what the scouting report says … but I think we got snake bit a little bit.”

Jones – who was a major reason that the Bulls got off to a 10-3 start this season – has seen his points per game average drop since conference play started. Senior center Kentrell Gransberry thinks that Jones will be able to adjust to the level of competition in the Big East.

“Well, Dominique is a great player,” Gransberry said. “He’s going to have to understand that it’s conference time now, and guys are focusing in on him. Knowing the player that he is, he can step up to the occasion and overcome that.”

With teams keying in on Jones, Gransberry has been able to put up big numbers during the Bulls’ four conference games. He is averaging 20.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in Big East games.

Gransberry’s surge has also seen him pass Jones as the team’s leading scorer. Gransberry averages 16.3 points per game, and Jones averages 16.1.

The Bulls are allowing teams to shoot nearly 44 percent from the field while giving up 69 points per game. Heath feels like the key to getting back on track is for his team to focus on themselves – not their opponents.

“I think that the important thing for us right now is to fix us,” Heath said. “I think we need to fix the things that we can do better at, and not get caught up in playing on the road, or playing Seton Hall. And we never think about the last game. You don’t want the last game to beat you twice.”

USF will be looking to win its first Big East conference road game since joining the league in 2005. Jones has no lack of confidence about when that win will finally be achieved.

“We’re going to get a win on the road this year,” Jones said. “Probably two, probably three. Who knows? But we’re not rushing anything, and we’re just taking it one game at a time.”