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USF Bulls

USF Bulls women put major scare into No. 2 Notre Dame

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 08:43 AM
TAMPA -

Notre Dame fans must be starting to dislike South Florida.

Monday night, the football team was embarrassed in a blowout loss to Alabama in South Florida, the region.

Tuesday night, its No. 2-ranked women's basketball team was given a major scare by South Florida, the school.

The Irish (13-1, 2-0 Big East) were given all they could handle in a 75-71 overtime win at the Sun Dome, rallying in the second half, only to see the Bulls with the ball and a chance to win late in regulation.

Andrea Smith missed a shot in the lane for USF (11-3, 0-1) with less than 10 seconds to play in the second half, preserving a 63-63 deadlock. After a timeout, Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins missed a runner in the lane as time expired, sending the game to overtime.

"If (Andrea Smith) makes the shot and we get a stop, we win," USF coach Jose Fernandez said. "It's a lot different if the ball goes through the hole."

USF guard Andrell Smith fouled out 37 seconds into the extra period. Center Akila McDonald fouled out halfway through, though the shorthanded Bulls kept the game close to the end.

"I really think if (Andrell Smith) hadn't fouled out of the game, they would have won," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "They played so well between the twins, just an exceptional game. They are a really good team. They should be ranked in the Top 25."

A Michaela Mabrey free throw with 6.1 seconds left gave the Irish their final four-point lead.

"It's tough going into that locker room," Jose Fernandez said. "I'm sure around the country, there weren't a lot of people that thought we would stay within 15 or 20 points after (Notre Dame beat No. 1 Connecticut on the road Saturday) and what Notre Dame has done to opponents this season. But, that's why you play the game."

The Bulls were spurred by Andrea Smith's 33 points on 13-for-37 shooting. Andrell Smith and Inga Orekhova added 15 and 13 points.

Diggins, considered one of the top players in the nation, overcame an 0-for-5 start from the floor and finished with 19 points, behind teammate Natalie Achonwa's 20 points.

USF led or was tied for 23 minutes, stretching from early in the first half to the middle of the second half, and then rallied from as many as seven down late in the second half, but came up just short of pulling a stunning upset.

Now, the team must bounce back for Saturday's game against DePaul in Chicago.

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