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January 26, 2013
TAMPA --Freshmen Zach LeDay and JaVontae Hawkins each had career afternoons for the Bulls on Saturday, but it wasn't enough as the South Florida Bulls (10-9, 1-6) fell to the No. 24 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-4, 4-3) 73-65 at the USF Sun Dome.
The game was a brief look into the future for the Bulls, with both LeDay and Hawkins registering career highs in points. LeDay led the Bulls with 17 points and 4 rebounds, going six for six from the free throw line. Hawkins chipped in 11 points on four of five shooting. Both freshmen efforts came off the bench.
"I love their effort and their energy." Said USF head coach Stan Heath of the freshmen, "Sometimes you lose some games and you get down mentally and those guys infused some of that tonight."
USF failed to win despite registering four players in double figures. In addition to LeDay and Hawkins, Bulls point guard Anthony Collins contributed 12 points and a late dunk by Martino Brock gave the guard 11. USF guard Jawanza Poland, who led the Bulls in scoring the previous three games, did not score in the loss.
Notre Dame posted four players in double figures, led by Jerian Grant's 18 points and 8 assists. Senior center Tom Knight took advantage of USF's lack of size, scoring 17 points. Pat Connaughton and point guard Eric Atkins scored 12 and 13 points respectively in the win.
"That's a good team, a very good offensive team" Heath said of the Irish.
One thing the Bulls were able to do was limit Notre Dame's leading scorer, holding Jack Cooley to just 6 points. The senior entered the game averaging 14.6 points per contest. In a matchup that pitted freshman LeDay against Cooley, it seemed that the Bulls' rookie was able to get the best of the Fighting Irish veteran.
"I try to hold my own with everybody, I don't care how big they are." Said Hawkins of the matchup.
The Bulls struggled early defensively, watching Notre Dame run out to a 24- 18 lead. USF fought back, finishing the first half on a 17-4 run to lead 35-28 at the half.
"Great first half, we really shot the ball well," said Heath, "Our zone was effect and that gave us the stops we needed to create a lead."
The Fighting Irish took the momentum back to start the second half. Led by Grant, Notre Dame went on a 17-5 run to take a 45-40 lead.
"Once they got the momentum in the second half, we couldn't get it back." Heath said of the Irish, "We just couldn't go on that sustained run to take it back."
Next up for the Bulls, they travel to Milwaukee to take on Marquette, another game that is not going to be a tough matchup for USF.
"They give you a schedule, you play it, it's not easy." Said Heath of the early rough schedule, "We are playing good teams. This is a good league, a really good league. There are no nights off."
Tipoff between the Bulls and the Golden Eagles is will be Monday, January 28th at 9:00 PM at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.