TAMPA -- It was a tale of two halves for the USF men’s basketball team Saturday afternoon. The Bulls (10-9, 1-6) dropped their second straight game, falling to No. 24 Notre Dame 73-65.
Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3) shot a solid 48 percent in the first half, but took no shots from the free throw line.
The Bulls were hot early from the floor, shooting 60 percent in the first period.
In the last five minutes of the first half USF’s defense held Notre Dame to no field goals. The Bulls went on a 17-4 run to take a 35-28 lead at the break.
USF’s lead out of the half was short-lived. The Fighting Irish transition game turned up, and the team went on a 15-5 run to take the lead.
The Bulls struggled shooting the three in the second half going 1-for-10. Percentage shooting from the floor also dropped to 38 percent.
Rebounding, again, was a huge issue for the Bulls as the Irish outdid them 34-17.
Notre Dame continued charging forward behind junior guard Jerian Grant who had 18 points, and senior forward Tom Knight who had 17. Jack Cooley added 14 rebounds and six points of his own.
The silver lining for the Bulls was the outstanding play from their freshmen in Zach LeDay and Javontae Hawkins. LeDay led the Bulls scoring a career-high 17 points. Hawkins also had a career high 11 points.
Most notably, what was missing from the game was the offensive presence of team veterans Jawanza Poland, Victor Rudd, and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. The three combined for 14 points and were 6-for-17 shooting.
After the game the Bulls took the 3:30 flight to Milwaukee, and will wait to play Marquette Monday at 9 p.m.