There's something about playing Georgetown that apparently brings out the best in USF.
Almost two years removed from their shocking upset of the Hoyas, the Bulls played Georgetown tight again Tuesday night at Verizon Center. But after a lethargic start, the sixth-ranked Hoyas pulled away and dealt the Bulls a 63-53 defeat, their ninth straight loss.
"I was proud of the effort," USF coach Stan Heath said. "We laid it out there, we gave our hearts. It's not easy when you've got a lot of adversity. We played a very, very good Georgetown team and went wire-to-wire for the most part."
USF is 1-2 against Georgetown since it joined the Big East, and in every game, the Bulls have given the Hoyas trouble. The most stunning was a 63-56 USF victory at the Sun Dome in 2006.
This time there was no upset, but USF held its ground, especially on defense. The Bulls (10-13, 1-9) held Georgetown (19-2, 9-1) to 39.3 percent shooting, its lowest of the season. Heath called it the Bulls' best defensive effort.
"We still had a lot of mistakes," said Dominique Jones, who led the Bulls with 15 points. "But at least we're taking positives from this game."
It may have been a case of Georgetown looking ahead to this weekend's game at Louisville, as the Hoyas came out sluggish and started 5-for-23 from the field.
But after a hot start, USF didn't do much on offense. After making 10 of their first 13 shots, the Bulls cooled off.
Leading 22-13 with 8:05 left in the first half, USF missed its next nine shots, and Georgetown went on a 12-0 run. The Bulls never led after that, and Georgetown put them away in the second half.
"They got longer athletes, but that doesn't mean we have to come out here and be scared," said USF senior center Kentrell Gransberry, who scored 13. "They put their jerseys on just like us, and we just wanted to come out and fight hard and give ourselves a chance to win, and I felt we did that."
Guard Jesus Verdejo returned to the Bulls' starting lineup after playing a combined three minutes in the previous two games because of a lower back injury. He scored 11 in 39 minutes.
Although USF was encouraged by the effort, it doesn't take away from the fact that it is running out of time to make up ground in the Big East standings. The Bulls seem poised to miss the conference tournament for the third time in as many seasons.
"We can get some wins," Heath said. "We just got to continue to stay positive and keep working."