Men’s team continues to grow

MEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMESeton Hall (16-11, 6-8) at USF (11-16, 2-12)When: Tonight, 7Where: Sun DomeTV/Radio: 1250 AM

In the nearly three seasons since the University of South Florida became a member of the Big East Conference in 2005, the men’s basketball team has won just six conference games.

The Bulls (11-16, 2-12) will look to pick up their seventh Big East win – and third this season – tonight against the Seton Hall Pirates (16-11, 6-8) at the Sun Dome.

“We’re still in the early stages of writing the history pages for our program,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “We’re trying to get wins – more wins than we’ve had in the past, and some wins away from home. We still have opportunities to do that.”

Winning away games has been a tough task for the Bulls – especially in conference play. Since joining the Big East, USF is 0-23 on the road in conference games – the longest such losing streak in the nation.

USF, however, has a lot of momentum on its side. After an 89-78 win over Syracuse on Feb. 13, the Bulls had back-to-back one-point losses – a 74-73 overtime loss to No. 15 Connecticut on Feb. 16 and a 52-51 loss to Cincinnati on Feb. 20.

The Bulls have had five days off since playing three games in seven days – a break that Heath feels benefited USF.

“After the Cincinnati and (Connecticut) games, I was a little worried about where we’d be mentally,” Heath said. “I think that was a tough stretch, and those two games were right there in our grasp. I think, mentally, to get away for a second really helped us out.”

Despite the two close losses, Heath likes the direction the team is taking.

“We’re not mathematically eliminated from anything, so there’s still a lot to play for,” Heath said. “I think we have to look at the glass half full. Right now, I think that we’re playing some of our best basketball. We don’t have much to show for it except a nice win against Syracuse, but we are playing well in a lot of areas.”

One reason the Bulls have been able to remain in games has been the play of senior center Kentrell Gransberry. Over the last three games, Gransberry has averaged 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks.

“He’s had an unbelievable senior campaign,” Heath said. “What he does every night is just so impressive.”

USF has seen Seton Hall once this season – a 74-64 loss Jan. 17. Heath hopes that the Bulls will learn from the mistakes of the first game.

“Our team has probably improved a lot defensively and rebounding compared to where we were earlier in the season,” Heath said. “Our (man-to-man) defense has really picked up, and it’s really what helped us become a team that’s very competitive in these games right now.”