TAMPA -- Notre Dame had four players score in double figures, helping it overcome a nine-point second-half deficit to beat South Florida, 73-65, on Saturday at the Sun Dome. The 24th-ranked Irish (16-4, 4-3 in the Big East), playing without senior captain Scott Martin (left knee), got a big boost from senior forward Tom Knight, who scored a career-high 17 points in his fourth career start. It was another deflating defeat for the Bulls (10-9, 1-6), who have lost six of their last seven after going 12-6 in conference play in their NCAA Tournament run last year. South Florida, which entered the game with the league's worst shooting percentage (37.8), took a seven-point halftime lead by making 60 percent of its shots. With two of South Florida's top scorers, forwards Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (seven points) and Victor Rudd (seven points) struggling, it got a lift off the bench from Zach LeDay, who scored 17 points, and freshman JaVontae Hawkins, who had 11. Star point guard Anthony Collins made all four of his shots in the first half, and the Bulls held Notre Dame scoreless the final five minutes to go on a 10-0 run. The Bulls extended their lead to nine on the first play of the second half, an alley-oop dunk by Rudd, but Notre Dame quickly bounced back. Junior guard Eric Atkins, who scored 13 points, hit two 3-pointers and sophomore Pat Connaughton, who had 12 points, made a layup in transition and a 3-pointer to give the Irish a three-point lead five minutes into the second half. That's when Knight, in one of the bigger plays of the half, soared for a put-back dunk, sparking a Bulls' timeout. Knight, making his first start in a Big East game, reached double figures for the first time. South Florida cooled off after its hot start, missing nine of its first 11 shots in the second half. The Bulls' bench helped keep them close, with Hawkins coming through with a three-point play and a layup, and LeDay hitting a jumper to pull them to within 52-48 midway through the half. But the Irish would keep its distance, with Jerian Grant, who scored 18 points, hitting a key jumper with just under three minutes left to push their lead to nine. Collins, who paced the Bulls with 10 first-half points, didn't score again until a layup with 2:15 left in the game. South Florida continued its struggle on the boards, getting outrebounded, 34-17, and shot only 6-for-21 from 3-point range. NOTES: Notre Dame has averaged 75 points in four Big East wins, 56 points in three Big East losses. ... The Bulls are 1-10 against the Irish in 11 meetings all-time. ... Bulls' forward Victor Rudd is 3-for- 13 in 3-pointers the last three games.
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