Jack Cooley led all scorers with 16 points, while Scott Martin added 15 points and 13 rebounds to help the Notre Dame Fighting Irish beat the South Florida Bulls 60-49 in Big East basketball action on Tuesday night.
USF (9-8, 2-2 Big East) never led in the game after giving up the first six points, and a mentally draining pattern began to set in very early on. The Bulls were the quicker and more athletic team, which helped them score with relative ease in the paint. They repeatedly cut Notre Dame’s lead to a point or two, and even tied the game once in the first half. But every time they needed to get one more stop to give themselves a chance to gain the advantage, it never came. The Irish would always pad the lead back out to six or eight points and make USF try and mount another charge.
Finally in the middle of the second half, the Irish (11-6, 3-1 Big East) opened up a 10-point lead at 47-37, after USF had pulled with three. That seemed to be the psychological limit for the Bulls, who could not put together another response. The figurative end to the game came shortly afterward when Cooley posterized Augustus Gilchrist with a thunderous dunk. It finished a 14-0 Irish run and gave Notre Dame a 54-37 lead with 4:10 to play.
Gilchrist led USF with 13 points and looked strong on the offensive end, but was victimized repeatedly on defense. Jawanza Poland chipped in 12 points, while Ron Anderson Jr. and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick each grabbed 10 rebounds. Fitzpatrick briefly left the game in the second half with an ankle injury, but was able to return. USF shot only 38% for the game and made just one of 13 three-point attempts.
The Bulls will return to Tampa to face the Seton Hall Pirates on Friday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.