SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Plagued by a poor start, bad free-throw shooting and an off game by Dominique Jones, USF gave itself plenty of reasons to struggle in Sunday's game at Notre Dame.
Yet here were the Bulls, ahead 50-44 with one quarter to play and a realistic shot to continue their best run in Big East play since joining the league in 2005.
Then Notre Dame guard Tory Jackson took over, scoring 12 in the final 10:07 to help key a 65-62 Irish victory that snapped USF's four-game winning streak.
"Had you told me we'd go 50 percent from the free-throw line and Dominique Jones would have an off day and we'd have a chance to win, I'd have been surprised to be in the game in those circumstances," USF coach Stan Heath said. "Our kids fought like crazy. Our start was horrible, but we came on down the stretch."
USF (15-8, 5-6 Big East) fell behind 16-2 in the opening six minutes and forced Heath to burn two timeouts.
"I wanted to stop the bleeding," Heath said. "… It wasn't anything with X's and O's. It was just, 'Guys, I know it's early, but we've got to wake up.' "
Powered by a 10-point half by forward Jarrid Famous and nine by point guard Chris Howard, the Bulls caught the Irish (17-7, 6-5) and were tied at 34 at halftime.
Jackson caught fire in the final 5:40. He hit two free throws to tie the score at 52, then after he had a shot blocked, he scored on a rebound with 3:36 left to give the Irish a 56-54 lead.
He drove inside to tie the score at 60, then his three-point play with 61 seconds left gave Notre Dame the lead.
USF made only 4 of 9 free throws in the second half and 10 of 20 in the game.
"A loss is a loss to us," said Howard, who scored a career-high 23. "Our goal is to come into people's houses and put up a fight."
Jones, averaging 27 points in Big East play entering the game, finished with 10 and shot 3-of-17 from the field. He had a chance to force overtime, but his 3-pointer at the buzzer fell off the rim.
"I thought we did a heck of a job on Jones," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "Between Ben (Hansbrough) and Tory guarding him and our team helping, that was the key because they key off him putting big numbers up."
Famous provided inside support for the Bulls and also recorded a season high of 18 points.
"It was physical, play" Famous said. "I just wanted to get going and make a presence and be strong in the lane."
USF outscored the Irish 36-16 in the paint and 11-4 on second-chance points, but the Irish had a 39-32 advantage on the boards.
Jackson finished with 18 points. Luke Harangody led the Irish with 19 points and 15 rebounds and sank two key free throws with four seconds left.
"They're a good team," Harangody said. "It's a pretty good win."
Information from Times wires was used in this report.