USF (13-7, 3-4) at
No. 21 Notre Dame (12-6, 3-4)
When: Saturday, Noon
Where: Joyce Center
The story: The women’s basketball team will travel north Saturday to take on No. 21 Notre Dame.
The matchup will mark the first meeting between the schools since 1998 and the first-ever intra-conference game. The Bulls (13-7, 3-4 Big East) are going into Saturday’s game looking to rebound after a devastating 77-47 defeat at the hands of No. 5 Connecticut on Tuesday night. The nation’s leading scorer, junior Jessica Dickson, was held to only six points in the contest, all of which came in the first half. For USF it was the fourth contest against a top-10 team and the sixth versus a Top 25. The 30-point loss to Connecticut marks the fifth time the Bulls have fallen to a current top-10 team this year.
Although the Bulls are averaging 71.3 points per game this season, in its five games against top-10 competition, USF is averaging a paltry 53.8 ppg, losing each game by an average of 22.6 points.
Notre Dame (12-6, 3-4 Big East) will also be looking to use Saturday’s game to rebound after a tough loss. On the same night that Connecticut routed the Bulls, Notre Dame fell to No. 10 Rutgers 69-43.
Despite Notre Dame’s No. 21 ranking, USF is the statistically superior team. The Bulls are shooting 43 percent from the field this season while the Fighting Irish are managing a 41 percent field-goal percentage and gaining only 63.8 points per game. USF also has a better turnover percentage, with only 13.7 per game compared to Notre Dame’s 16.1.
Despite the statistics, a Bulls win will be dependent on the play of its supporting cast, especially junior center Nalini Miller. Miller is averaging 11.3 points per game, but in USF’s loss to the Huskies, Miller and the rest of the frontcourt were outscored 40-6 in the paint. If the Bulls intend on winning Saturday, they will need a strong effort from Miller.
Keep an eye on: Notre Dame’s Megan Duffy. The senior point guard is leading the Fighting Irish in scoring this season with 15.6 points per game. Duffy had two breakout games last week to help the Irish pick up a pair of important Big East conference wins. Against No. 12 DePaul and Georgetown, Duffy averaged 19.5 points, 7.0 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals and was named Big East Conference Player of the Week. The Bulls will have to account for Duffy if they hope to secure a valuable Big East victory.
– Eric Moeller, Tony Marquis