Tampa, FL – Jerian Grant scored 18 points to go with eight assists and No.24 Notre Dame used a strong second half to take down the South Florida Bulls, 73-65, on Saturday at USF Sun Dome.
Tom Knight tallied 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting with seven rebounds, Eric Atkins scored 13 points, Pat Connaughton added 12 and Jack Cooley came away with a game-high 14 boards for Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3 Big East), which outscored the Bulls by 15 points over the final 20 minutes.
"It's a great win for us, we've been struggling," said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. "Losing three out of four, Monday night was not real fun with Georgetown thumping us, and I'm very proud of our group because at halftime we could have thought 'Not today down here in Tampa' but I thought we really defended in the second half."
Zach LeDay scored 17 points off the bench to lead South Florida (10-9, 1-6), which has dropped six of its last seven contests. Anthony Collins finished with 12 points and eight assists, while Martino Brock and JaVontae Hawkins each poured in 11 points in the setback.
South Florida ended the first half on a strong note, but came out of the locker room flat and the Fighting Irish took advantage.
After ending on a 10-0 run to take 35-28 lead into halftime, the Bulls scored just five points over the initial six-plus minutes of the second half, in which time the Fighting Irish reeled off four 3-pointers in taking a 48-40 advantage on Grant's third triple of the contest.
"Its a good team, very good offensive team, a team very skilled and know how to play," said South Florida coach Stan Heath. "Once they got the momentum going in the second half we just couldn't get it back."
Grant then quelled a short spurt from South Florida later in the stanza, finishing a three-point play to push the Fighting Irish's edge back up to seven and Atkins created a double-digit spread with a shot from beyond the arc soon after.
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick followed a triple from Brock with a layup to cut the Bulls' deficit to 60-55 with 6:10 remaining, but South Florida would only score two more baskets the rest of the way.
Notre Dame cleared its final hurdle after Grant knocked down a pair of jumpers around a score from Collins to keep a nine-point edge. Atkins then put the Fighting Irish ahead by double-digits with a pair of free throws with just under a minute remaining.
The Irish converted 9-of-19 attempts from 3-point-range for the game and got going early, with Grant making Notre Dame's fourth triple of the contest to give them a 22-18 edge midway through the first half.
A pair of buckets by Knight kept Notre Dame ahead with 4:56 to play, but they were held scoreless for the rest of the half.
Collins, who was 4-for-4 through the first 20 minutes, finished a three-point play before Fitzpatrick buried a triple as part of 10 unanswered points for the Bulls, who carried a seven-point cushion into halftime.
Notre Dame improved to 10-1 in the all-time series between the two schools ... The Bulls had 17 rebounds as a team, just three more than Cooley's total for Notre Dame ... South Florida shot 60.9 percent in the first half but just 38.5 percent over the final 20 minutes ... The Fighting Irish had 17 second-chance points.