After seeing his team commit a season-high 31 turnovers the other night, USF coach Jose Fernandez got an inspired effort from his team Tuesday night against one of the nation’s top teams.

Ultimately, though, the No. 3 Fighting Irish were too much for the shorthanded-Bulls to handle down the stretch, winning the contest 81-64 last night at the Joyce Center in South Bend, IN.

“For our group to come here and compete and battle the way they did was great,” said Bulls coach Jose Fernandez.  “(Notre Dame) is ranked third in the country for a reason.  They just made more plays than we did.”

The victory for the Fighting Irish (15-0, 2-0) would not come easy though, as USF stayed with them for most of the night.

With just under eight minutes to play, Bulls guard Tiffany Conner made a layup to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 62-59.  That would be as close as South Florida came to the undefeated Irish, however, as Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run in the next three and a half minutes to push its lead to fourteen.

“The 11-0 stretch really hurt us late in the game,” Fernandez said.  “We got good touches but didn’t make the shots in the paint and we couldn’t guard them down low. (Notre Dame guard) (Lindsay) Schrader really outworked us tonight.”

Schrader led all scorers with 18 points and had as many rebounds as the entire USF team with 13.

The Bulls, however, were able to keep last night’s contest close despite playing without guard KaNeisha Saunders (flu) and receiving limited minutes from center Melissa Dalembert, who recently suffered a family tragedy.

“I was very proud of our effort overall because we were so shorthanded,” Fernandez said.

USF received solid play from guard Leondra Doomes-Stephens, as she scored a career high 12 points in the defeat.

Forward Sequoyah Griffin came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points while adding five assists in 31 minutes.

“I have been struggling with my shot lately so I told myself I wanted to get to the basket more and draw fouls,” Griffin said.  “My teammates did a great job of passing the ball around and creating screens and openings for me and I was able to capitalize.”

Griffin saw some positives of her team’s effort despite the Bulls’ third straight loss

“We had to show up tonight playing against the third ranked team in the nation in their building,” she said.  “It was a high spirited Big East contest and everybody on our team gave it their all for 40 minutes.  We fought hard and no one gave up.”

-Joel Leventhal