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TAMPA -- Two successful squads go head-to-head tonight at the Sun Dome as USF's women's basketball team opens up Big East conference play against No. 2 Notre Dame.
The Irish (12-1) are coming off a huge in-conference win against then-No. 1 UConn, which gave the team a three-spot boost in this week's Associated Press poll.
This is the only meeting between these two teams this season, and it is an important match for both sides. For the Bulls, there is a need to start Big East play off right; for the Irish, there is a need to keep the momentum going after beating the top team in the nation.
USF (11-2) has done well despite been shorthanded for most of the season, but the squad may receive a much-needed lift tonight as key senior guard Kaneisha Saunders and senior forward Tahira Johnson are listed as probable to return. Both seniors have suffered from ankle injuries that have kept them on the bench for several games.
Getting these critical players back on the court will be especially important if the Bulls hope to pull off the upset against a stacked Irish team. Notre Dame is ranked in the top ten in eight critical statistical categories, with scoring offense (#2 at 85.2 PPG) and free-throw percentage (#3 at 80.5%) included among them.
Notre Dame is led by Kayla McBride (15.7 PPG) and Skylar Diggins (14.8 PPG and 5.9 assists per game; three-time All-American). USF is led by twin sisters Andrell Smith (17.1 PPG) and Andrea Smith (16.5 PPG) .
Head coach Jose Fernandez and his team are chasing the goal of returning to the NCAA tournament, and a win over a powerhouse Notre Dame team would look great for the resume. USF enjoyed an eight-game win streak to start the season, but have since stumbled.
In-conference play is the biggest factor taken into consideration when invitations are handed out for the tourney, so the Bulls will have to continue their impressive play from here on out if they hope to make their goal a reality.
Tuesday's game can be heard on 1010-AM and seen on BullsCast on GoUSFBulls.com