for this game

Notre Dame uses late run to beat S. Florida 81-64

Jan 13, 2010 - 3:20 AM By TOM COYNE AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind.(AP) -- For a while Tuesday night it appeared as if No. 3 Notre Dame might not go into its big game against top-ranked Connecticut on Saturday undefeated.

The Fighting Irish couldn't shake South Florida until blowing the game open with a 19-3 run in the final seven minutes to win 81-64 behind Lindsay Schrader's 18 points and 13 rebounds.

"I thought that was going to be a difficult game with the Connecticut game kind of looming in the background a little bit and the media so nicely continuing to talk about it and having us read about it," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I thought overall a veteran team at the end of the game found a way to win."

South Florida (9-7, 0-3 Big East) stayed in the game by shooting 50 percent until going cold with 7:30 minutes left, when they went just 1-of-7 from the floor. Natalie Novosel ignited the decisive 19-3 run for the Irish (15-0, 2-0) with a 3-pointer with 6:02 left and later added a driving layup, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

Schrader said the key was that she and fellow seniors Melissa Lechlitner and Ashley Barlow stayed calm.

"We knew we were going to win the game," she said. "That comes from experience, definitely."

South Florida coach Jose Fernandez agreed.

"When it came down to it at the end of the game, our inexperience showed," he said. "Schrader and Lechlitner were not going to let Notre Dame lose."

Sequoyah Griffin led the Bulls with 16 points and Leondra Doomes-Stephens added 12. Skylar Diggins scored 14 points, Novosel had 12, Lechlitner scored 11 and Barlow had nine points and 11 rebounds. Diggins also played tough defense in a game where the Irish didn't play as well defensively as they normally do.

"Diggins did a great job on Jasmine Wynne," Fernandez said. "We could not get into our offense. We were getting into our offense with 17, 16 seconds left on the shot clock."

Schrader said it's been hard to avoid talk about the UConn game, which will be featured on ESPN's "GameDay."

"When people come up to you, 'Oh my God, 'GameDay,' UConn,"' Schrader said. "I think we're finally ready for a really, really good test, and this is going to be it. This is a great opportunity."

McGraw said she didn't say anything to her players before the game about the possibility they might be looking ahead to UConn.

"No. I didn't want to mention the word," she said. "If you turn on ESPN you're going to hear about it. If you walk through the building you're going to hear about it. So it was hard to keep that a secret."

McGraw announced after the game that 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Erica Solomon will miss the rest of the season to focus on academics. Solomon was averaging 3.4 points a game. The Irish also were without 5-10 guard Fraderica Miller who missed the game with a knee injury.