SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Natalie Novosel scored a career-high 32 points, Devereaux Peters added 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, and No. 3 Notre Dame withstood an upset bid by South Florida to beat the Bulls 80-68 on Saturday and clinch a tie for the Big East regular-season title.
Skylar Diggins had 18 points for the Irish (27-2, 14-1), who set a school regular-season mark with their 27th victory. But this one was not easy against the scrappy Bulls (15-14, 7-8), who got 18 points apiece from Inga Orekhova and Jasmine Wynne..
Notre Dame, which also shared the conference title in 2001 with Connecticut, now wraps up its regular season Monday night on the road against the Huskies.
The Irish, who trailed early in the second half, could not the Bulls away until Novosel led a late spurt.
Peters had a three-point play and Novosel hit a 3-pointer, added four free thows and then threw in a shot before the shot clock expired with about a minute left as the Irish finally pulled away with a 78-64 lead.
Andrell Smith had a pair of driving baskets and Sasha Bernard another as the Bulls scored the first six points of the second half and held the Irish scoreless for more than five minutes while taking a 44-41 lead.
Novosel hit a pair of free throws to break the drought and then Diggins made back-to-back steals and drove for layups both times as the Irish regained the lead. She had added two more free throws and another basket and her eight-point outburst left Notre Dame with a six-point cushion.
But Bernard's 3-pointer made it a two-point game before Peters hit on a follow and Kayla McBride had a basket go push it back to six with seven and a half minutes remaining.
Diggins hit a basket to put the Irish up five and then left the floor grabbing her left ankle with a little more than six minutes to go. Moments later she headed through a tunnel and then came back on the floor and re-entered the game with 5:33 remaining.
USF's Tahira Johnson, who had seven first-half points, had to be helped off with a right leg injury with 13:58 left and being knocked to the floor under the basket.
Brittany Mallory hit a 3-pointer just before the first half buzzer to give the Irish a 41-38 lead after a sluggish first 20 minutes that saw the Irish commit 14 turnovers. The Irish finished with 22 turnovers.
Whether it was the emotion of their final regular-season home game or looking ahead to Monday's rematch with UConn, the Irish played sluggish and couldn't pull away. They went on a quick 8-0 spurt with about five minutes to go , opening up a 12-point lead.
But USF came right back with a 13-1 run featuring a banked-in 3-pointer and then a tying baseline jumper by Orekhova, who had 15 first-half points.
But it wasn't the seniors' last game on the Purcell Pavilion floor because the Irish will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament later next month.