USF ready for the Irish

There’s little doubt South Florida has faced tough competition this season in the Big East, but the team is about to face its toughest stretch so far.

The Bulls (8-15, 3-8), coming off a 77-62 loss to Providence on Tuesday, will face Notre Dame in South Bend on Sunday and play Georgetown and Connecticut the same week.

USF will try to improve upon a poor shooting performance against the Friars. The Bulls shot 39 percent from the field and went 5-of-16 from the free-throw line.

Coach Stan Heath said the team needs to improve from the line.

“You work so hard to fight and get to the free-throw line, but those numbers are just not where they need to be,” he said. “We went to the line and couldn’t capitalize and that was one of the frustrating things.”

While the Bulls are suffering with 57 percent shooting from the free-throw line, they are getting improved performances from the bench.

After junior Mike Mercer was dismissed from the team and senior B.J. Ajayi suffered a season-ending injury, freshman guard Justin Leemow has seen an increase in minutes. Heath said Leemow has improved the team’s defense.

The Bulls will need to play defense well against one of the best post players in the country. Notre Dame center Luke Harangody leads the Big East in scoring with 24.3 points per game.

The Fighting Irish have struggled recently, however — and a USF win could see the Bulls jump them in the Big East conference.