Bulls battle No. 6 Georgetown

MEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMEUSF (10-12, 1-8) at Georgetown(18-2, 8-1)When: Tonight, 7Where: McDonough ArenaTV/Radio: Catch 47/1250 AM

The South Florida men’s basketball team – which has lost eight consecutive games and 20 straight Big East Conference road games – is in need of a victory. But the road out of the conference’s cellar will not be an easy one.

The Bulls (10-12, 1-8) travel to Washington, D.C. tonight to play the No. 6 Georgetown Hoyas (18-2, 8-1).

“They’re playing exceptional basketball right now,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “When you look at what they’ve done over the last few years – and they’re coming off of a Final Four appearance – they are a team that can obviously go deep into the tournament and win.”

The Bulls will have a difficult task on their hands tonight. The Hoyas are one of the best frontcourt teams in the nation.

Senior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. – son of former National Basketball Association player Patrick Ewing – scored a career-high 16 points in the Hoyas’ victory of Seton Hall on Saturday.

On the season, Ewing is averaging 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Another reason Georgetown is so difficult to stop is because of the presence of 7-foot-2 senior center Roy Hibbert.

Hibbert is averaging 13.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, while shooting nearly 60 percent (.598) from the field.

On the defensive end, Hibbert is third in the Big East with 1.95 blocks per game.

“We have to find a way to stop a guy like Roy Hibbert,” Heath said. “He’s obviously one of the dominant players in college basketball. It’s going to be an interesting matchup with (Bulls senior center) Kentrell (Gransberry) and himself.”

For the Bulls, Gransberry’s play has continued to be at a high level.

Gransberry is eighth in the Big East in scoring, averaging 16.7 ppg. Gransberry remains the leader of the Big East in rebounds per game. His 10.8 rpg is ranked eighth in the NCAA.

One reason the Bulls’ season has deteriorated is the play of Bulls reserves. USF, which has had problems with depth all season, has recently seen the problem compounded due to injuries.

Four Bulls were listed as questionable for Saturday’s 72-58 loss to the St. John’s Red Storm. In a season littered with negatives for the Bulls, one player’s return will have an immediate impact.

After missing one game with a lower back injury and seeing very limited action against the Red Storm, junior guard Jesus Verdejo will be back on the floor for the Bulls.

“Jesus is back,” Heath said. “I think he’s been 100 percent, and I haven’t seen any side effects. He’s looked very good the last two days in practice.”

On the season, Verdejo is averaging 9.5 points and is shooting nearly 43 percent from the field.

Verdejo’s return helps the Bulls. Even though USF is averaging 72.2 points per game, the Hoyas are the Big East’s best defensive team. They are allowing only 56.9 ppg.

“With our team, right now, we’re struggling,” Heath said. “To go to Georgetown is probably the toughest challenge in all the league. But, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to play.”