Dickson, Miller fight Irish in OT, pull out win

A new number and an extra session weren’t enough to slow down Jessica Dickson against Notre Dame on Saturday.

Dickson was forced to wear jersey No. 44 midway through the first half after her usual No. 25 had a blood stain.

After the switch, Dickson kept scoring – including seven of her 30 points in overtime – helping USF to an 87-78 victory.

“I’ll have to be like Kobe (Bryant and switch jerseys),” Dickson said. “I’m just joking, I’m going have to stick with No. 25.”

The Bulls (13-4, 3-1) led for much of the game and were successful at dictating their accelerated style of play. USF trailed for only 36 seconds during the game’s first 40 minutes, but couldn’t hold off Notre Dame at the end of regulation.

USF led 70-62 with 7:30 remaining in the second half, but Notre Dame guard Melissa Lechlinter capped a 12-4 Irish run with a game tying three-pointer and just 14 seconds remaining.

The Bulls continued to impose their style of play when the extra frame began and pulled away for the victory. Notre Dame managed just four points in overtime because of defensive pressure led by USF forward Nalini Miller.

Miller finished the game with a career-high 26 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and two steals to help the Bulls outscore Notre Dame 13-4 in overtime.

“We didn’t want to get in a track meet. I didn’t think we’d have any chance if we got in a track meet,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We tried to slow down the pace, but (USF) brought it up-tempo with their pressure.”

Notre Dame (11-5, 2-1) came into the contest averaging 71 points per game. USF averages 76.8 points despite posting a season low of 36 against Rutgers in its last outing.

Along with reaching the 30-point plateau for the third time this season, Dickson also added 11 rebounds and three assists to lead the Bulls.

“She’s a great player – I mean, 30 points and 11 rebounds,” McGraw said. “When she wants to score, she’s really hard to guard.”

Once the score was tied at the end of regulation, Dickson made sure the game wouldn’t slip away.

“I tried to respond. Notre Dame hit a big three to send it to overtime,” Dickson said. “We wanted to bounce back and let people know we can play against anybody.”The up-tempo pace is exactly how coach Jose Fernandez hopes his team can play for the remainder of the season.

“We definitely wanted the game to be in the 80s (point wise),” Fernandez said. “We went with a smaller lineup to start the game with four guards. We haven’t done that all year.”

Senior point guard Tristen Webb was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time since Feb. 28, 2003 against Texas Christian University.

Saturday marked just the third starting lineup the Bulls have used through 17 games.

Even though the Bulls don’t have a true rival, the Fighting Irish are quickly becoming just that.

A year ago, the Bulls defeated then-No. 21 Notre Dame 68-64 in overtime and helped strip the Fighting Irish of their national ranking for the remainder of the season.Notre Dame is the only team USF has faced in overtime twice in the program’s 35-year history.

The Irish returned the favor with a 73-66 victory over USF during the opening round of the Big East Tournament and nearly thwarted the Bulls’ chances of qualifying for the Big East Tournament.

“It is becoming quite a good rivalry,” McGraw said. “With two overtime games and a meeting in the conference tournament, (USF) has proved to be a very good team.”Fernandez agrees.

“Since we’ve entered the Big East, we’ve had three great games against Notre Dame,” Fernandez said. “Last year we hit a three to send it to overtime and they knocked us out of the (Big East) Conference Tournament.”