Joe Hettler | Friday, December 5, 2003
When Wisconsin focused on containing Notre Dame’s inside offense, guard Megan Duffy made them pay with her outside shooting. When the Badgers tried to shut down the Irish perimeter shooting, Courtney LaVere took over in the paint.The sophomores combined for 47 points and Notre Dame (3-3) played outstanding defense en route to an 82-64 victory over Wisconsin (2-3) at the Joyce Center Thursday night. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Irish.”I was really pleased with our defensive intensity,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought our effort was tremendous. We had a great inside-outside game. Megan had a terrific first half and Courtney had a great second half. Offensively, for the rest of the team, things weren’t really going that well and these two picked up the slack.”LaVere sparked a Notre Dame second half surge that saw the Irish push their lead to as many as 20, at 68-48, with 9:49 remaining. LaVere made her first three shots in the second half, all in the first minute, to extend Notre Dame’s halftime lead of 36-29 to 41-32. McGraw had her team pressure the Badgers more in the second half and the Irish also started using more full court press. The moves worked, as Notre Dame outscored Wisconsin 46-35 in that half.”We wanted to pressure them more in the second half,” McGraw said. “We primarily played man-to-man in the second half. We felt we just needed to come up and guard them and then we used the full court pressure.”Duffy played outstanding throughout the game, offensively and defensively, and surpassed her previous career-high in points (14) by scoring 19 in the first half. She also had seven assists and three steals.”It was fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve hit that many outside shots,” Duffy said. “My teammates were looking for to get the ball, which is a little bit different, and I was able to knock them down.”Duffy almost single-handedly kept the Irish ahead of Wisconsin in the first half by drilling four of six 3-pointers. Meanwhile, she continued to annoy Wisconsin’s guards with her intensity on defense.”I think defensively when you’re playing that hard it’s easier to come down and execute on offense, which sounds funny,” Duffy said. “When you’re getting steals and rebounds, it’s easier to come down and be in the flow offensively.”In practices leading to the game, McGraw was worried about the height advantage Wisconsin had over her team. Early in the game, Wisconsin took advantage of their size by feeding the ball to 6-foot-5 center Emily Ashbaugh, who scored eight of her team’s first 11 points and left the Irish defense searching for answers. But the Irish held Ashbaugh to only one field goal for the remaining 14 minutes of the first half. The Badgers Ebba Geisba added nine first half points by knocking down 4-of-6 shots.Notre Dame took over the game in the second half by getting the ball into their post players. Starting with LaVere’s first six points of the second half, the Irish fed the ball to a high post player, who then passed inside to a player cutting to the low post. This high-low offense worked for much of the second half, as the Badgers struggled to stop easy scoring opportunities for Notre Dame.Forward Jacqueline Batteast added nine points and led the team with 10 rebounds, while playing more as a decoy then a scorer. She had four assists and found open teammates on numerous occasions.The Irish travel to Washington for a game Sunday against the Huskies. McGraw said her team is making great strides in practice, which will help them during games.”I think we’ve been working really hard and we’re starting to see the benefits of practicing hard and what it can do for us,” McGraw said.Notes:u Notre Dame’s win over Wisconsin was the team’s first victory against a Big Ten school since the 2001 national championship game against Purdue. Since that game, the Irish have lost five times to Big Ten foes.u Notre Dame improved to 42-2 since the 1994-95 season in non-conference home games.u Wisconsin guard Kandace Evans had seven turnovers for the Badgers. The Irish had only 10 turnovers a team.