USF faces No. 3 Irish

USF coach Jose Fernandez has noticed some growing pains lately.

After committing 31 turnovers against No. 25 Georgetown on Saturday in a loss, the Bulls (9-6, 0-2) will have to grow up quickly to pull off an upset over No. 3 Notre Dame tonight at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Convocation Center.

“The Big East is the best league in the country,” Fernandez said.  “Our conference has a great deal of depth, differing styles of play, athleticism and good coaching. We always have to put our last game behind us and adjust for the next one.”

Only five players returned from last season’s team, and the inexperience is hurting USF, Fernandez said. The Bulls are 14th in the Big East with a -1 turnover margin, while Notre Dame is second with a +8.93 turnover margin.

“We have to make more free throws, and we can’t afford to turn the ball over,” Fernandez said. “Inexperience has been a problem for us all season and (players) like (sophomore) Jasmine Wynne, (freshman) KaNeisha Saunders and (junior college transfer) Dominique English must continue to get better throughout the year.”

Tonight’s game will be USF’s third straight against a ranked conference opponent. 

“In the Big East, you have to come to play every night,” said senior center Jessica Lawson. “It’s not like we can take a night off, take a play off. As we saw with Georgetown, there are no nights off. Every night we have to come in and give it our all.”

Notre Dame will be a tough test, though. The Fighting Irish (14-0, 1-0) have outscored their opponents by an average of 24 points per game and have victories over four top- 25 teams.

“Notre Dame has a good balance of inside and outside play,” Fernandez said. “They were a very talented team last year and have returned practically everybody in addition to adding one of the best freshman in the country. They shoot the ball very well and also have the ability to put it on the floor.”