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Heath: Athletic defenses are causing problems

The road doesn’t get any easier for the struggling Bulls, who started the season 10-2 but have suffered three straight losses to open Big East play.

West Virginia, who fell from No. 8 to No. 10 in the Associated poll after losing to Notre Dame on Saturday, comes to the Sun Dome on Wednesday looking to extend the Bulls’ losing streak.

Like No. 5 Syracuse, who defeated USF 82-65 on Sunday, the Mountaineers can create havoc with their length, said USF coach Stan Heath.

“The difficulty with West Virginia is at times they could put five guys out there that are 6-foot-7 or better,” Heath said.  “They do a lot of switching and create a lot of matchup problems and those are the things we have to overcome.”

Heath attributed the Bulls’ poor shooting in the last few games — USF has shot 9-of-40 from 3-point range in its last three games — to matchup problems with tall and athletic teams.

“We’ve played some long guys,” Heath said. “You look at Syracuse and the length they have on the back line of their defense — It forces you to shoot a little quicker. It changes your shot. Psychologically, I think as time goes on, it makes you think that you have to shoot a little deeper than you normally do.”

Syracuse’s starting frontcourt consists of three players 6-foot-7 or taller — a big part of the reason USF shot just 3-for-18 from 3-point range Sunday.

“We’re going to have to be able to shoot the ball,” Heath said. “That’s a big part of having success. You’ve got to be able to defend, but you’ve got to be able to make perimeter jump shots. Early in the season, we were doing that but lately we’ve struggled.”

West Virginia won’t make matters any easier, as the Mountaineers starting frontcourt consists of 6-foot-7 Da’Sean Butler, 6-foot-8 Kevin Jones and 6-foot-9 Devin Ebanks, who all average more than 12 points and six rebounds per game.

Butler and Ebanks also bring the ball up on occasion, and both are 3-point threats that can guard the perimeter, Heath said.

“They’re long and athletic,” said USF senior guard Chris Howard. “Ebanks and Butler bringing the ball up the court at (point guard) are even more dangerous with that extra size out there.  They’re just a well-balanced team.”

Gilchrist’s status still unclear

There is still no timetable for the return of sophomore forward Augustus Gilchrist, who has been sidelined since early December with a high ankle sprain, Heath said Monday.

“It’s a delicate injury,” Heath said. “The severity of the high-ankle sprain varies. I’ve seen guys that have come back in four (games).  Every person’s varies.”

Gilchrist hasn’t practiced since the injury.

Two 2010 football commitments enroll early

USF football verbal commitments Austin Reiter, a two-star offensive tackle prospect from Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, and Brandon Wilkinson, a three-star defensive-end prospect from Venice High School, both plan to participate in spring football after enrolling in classes this semester.

After graduating high school early, Reiter and Wilkinson join two other early enrollees in USF’s 2010 recruiting class: Junior college transfers Claude Davis and Curtis Weatherspoon.