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ND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Bulls pay visit to the JACC

Eric Retter | Friday, January 27, 2006

It’s no team’s goal to get to the 8th conference game of the season trying to fight to stay alive and claw up from near the conference cellar, but that’s the unenviable position the No. 21 Irish find themselves in.

On Saturday, Notre Dame (3-4 in the Big East and 12-6 overall) will take on South Florida, (3-4, 13-7 overall) in an important game that will begin breaking up the 6-way tie for the conference’s No. 8 spot.

“It’s definitely very important to get back to .500,” senior point guard and team captain Megan Duffy said.

USF has the same goal for Saturday’s match-up and it will enter the game with the nation’s leading scorer, junior guard Jessica Dickson, who averages 23.8 points per contest.

“[They are] one of the hottest teams in the league right now,” Duffy said.

That hot streak was cooled a little bit by a 77-47 drubbing at the hands of No. 5/4 Connecticut, but at the same time, Notre Dame enters the game in the same predicament, looking to rebound after a 69-43 loss at Rutgers and an all-too-close 54-52 win at Georgetown.

After those two difficult road games, the Irish are looking forward to coming home, where they are 6-2, including an upset win over No. 10 DePaul on Jan. 17.

“It’s nice to be able to come home after a tough loss,” Duffy said. “It’s fun to play in front of our fans and hopefully get a win.”

One thing the Irish will want to avoid if they hope to come away with that win is the turnover, and they are certainly hoping to avoid a repeat of Tuesday’s game with Rutgers, where they gave up 22 turnovers.

“We [have to] take care of the ball,” Duffy said. “[Rutgers] got 35 points off turnovers.”

Notre Dame will also continue its focus on rebounding, where the team has struggled at times.

“We [have to] focus on rebounding every game, but we also have to develop a post presence,” Duffy said.

That presence may be difficult to start developing against the Bulls, who lead the Big East with 5.05 blocks per game.

Duffy, who leads the team in both points and assists, with 15.6 and 4.2 per game, respectively, does not shy away from responsibility in those post struggles.

“We as guards have to get the ball into the post,” she said.

This season marks South Florida’s first since moving from Conference USA, the conference the Bull’s media guide still claims they belong to. As a result Notre Dame leads the all-time series 2-0, the last game being an 83-63 Irish win on Dec. 19, 1998.

“We really don’t know much about them,” Duffy said.