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USF hangs tough, fades late in loss at No. 3 Irish

Coming off a game in which the Bulls had a season-high 31 turnovers, USF women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez could be pleased with his team’s effort Tuesday night against one of the nation’s top teams.

It still wasn’t nearly enough to pull off an upset, though.

No. 3 Notre Dame (15-0, 2-0) was too much for the shorthanded Bulls (9-7, 0-3), who battled throughout, and the Irish snagged an 81-64 victory Tuesday night at the Joyce Center.

“For our group to come here and compete and battle the way they did was great,” Fernandez said.  “(Notre Dame) is ranked third in the country for a reason. They just made more plays than we did.”

USF stayed with Notre Dame almost the entire night, cutting the Irish’s lead to 62-59 with just under eight minutes remaining. However, an 11-0 run in the next three and a half minutes pushed the game out of reach for the Bulls.

Notre Dame guard Lindsay Schrader led all scorers (18 points) and had as many rebounds (13) as the entire USF team.

“The 11-0 stretch really hurt us late in the game,” Fernandez said. “We got good touches but didn’t make the shots in the paint, and we couldn’t guard them down low. (Notre Dame guard Lindsay) Schrader really outworked us tonight.”

As if facing the No. 3 team in the country on the road wasn’t challenging enough, the Bulls played without guard KaNeisha Saunders (flu), and center Melissa Dalembert played limited minutes because of personal reasons, Fernandez said.

“I was very proud of our effort overall because we were so shorthanded,” Fernandez said. 

Forward Sequoyah Griffin came off the bench and scored a team-high 16 points while adding five assists in 31 minutes.

“I have been struggling with my shot lately so I told myself I wanted to get to the basket more and draw fouls,” Griffin said.  “My teammates did a great job of passing the ball around and creating screens and openings for me and I was able to capitalize.”

Griffin saw some positives from her team’s effort despite the Bulls’ third straight loss.

“We had to show up tonight playing against the third ranked team in the nation in their building,” she said. “It was a high-spirited Big East contest, and everybody on our team gave it their all for 40 minutes. We fought hard and no one gave up.”