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Big game, big performances

Heather VanHoegarden | Thursday, November 18, 2004

Notre Dame kept itself in the game just long enough for Jacqueline Batteast to come back in the game after two early fouls. Then she took over, as No. 11 Notre Dame knocked off No. 6 Duke 76-65 Wednesday night at the Joyce Center in the semifinals of the preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

Batteast scored 10 straight points to give the Irish a 65-58 lead with 4:50 remaining. Batteast had only played 10 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, and she picked up her third foul just over two minutes into the second half. However, she came back strong on offense, despite the fact that two of her fouls were offensive fouls.

“I just tried to be aggressive,” Batteast said, who finished with 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds. “I know that I had a couple of charges before, but the coaches told me to keep taking it. And once a couple started falling, I thought it was better if I shot.”

It was the most physical game the Irish have played this season, as pressure defense was played from start to finish. But Notre Dame’s 50-point second half was too much for Duke.

“I thought it was a very hard fought game, and I thought they played an exceptional second half, hit some big shots, some big 3s and just really wore us down,” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said.

But for the Irish, it wasn’t just Batteast. She was joined by three other Irish players in double-figures. Freshman Charel Allen played the best game of her young career, finishing with 16 points, three assists, three steals, two blocks and three rebounds. She was a spark for the Irish off the bench, playing 32 minutes. Allen also played solid defense on Duke’s star, Monique Currie, limiting her to 14 points on 6-for-19 shooting.

“I thought the story of the game was Charel Allen,” McGraw said. “To have to guard Monique Currie, who’s one of the best players in the country, and she did an excellent job on her.”

The game started with the Irish being down most of the first half. Duke dominated the offensive boards, pulling down 14 in just the first half. But even without Batteast, the Irish hung in there, with the help of a solid defensive effort that limited the Blue Devils to 28 first-half points, while countering with 26 of their own.

To start the second half, the Irish found themselves down 39-32 with 16:08 to play, the biggest lead for either team at that point. Batteast was on the bench with three fouls, and McGraw decided to bring her back in, despite the fouls.

“I thought if the game is going to get out of hand, we need to get her back in there,” McGraw said.

Batteast responded with a steal, a 3-pointer and two assists, and the lead was cut to 44-41 with 13:48 to play.

Then with eight minutes to play, the senior took over, scoring 10 straight to put the Irish up 65-58, and Notre Dame never looked back.

“I thought down the stretch, we got great shots from Jackie and big rebounds from everybody,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame switched to play a 2-3 zone, and the Duke offense was shut down. The Blue Devils were outrebounded by the Irish 42-39, despite playing no player shorter than 5-foot-10.

“I was really pleased with our defensive effort overall,” McGraw said. “I thought we did a really good job of playing the zone. I think that changed the game. We switched from man to zone, and that broke the game open for us.”

Megan Duffy hit 9-for-10 from the free throw line, all in the second half, to ice the game, and the Irish defense held strong.

“I was really pleased with the way we handled ourselves with poise down the stretch,” McGraw said.

Duffy finished with 15 points and seven assists. Also in double-figures was Courtney LaVere, who scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

For the Blue Devils, Currie was joined in double-figures by Mistie Williams (10 points, eight rebounds) and Alison Bales (11 points, seven blocks).

With the win, Notre Dame advances to the finals of the preseason WNIT, where it will face No. 10 Ohio State at home Saturday at 7 p.m.

Notes:

u Irish guard Tulyah Gaines was not dressed for Wednesday’s game. She suffered a neck injury Friday night against Illinois State. McGraw said she does not expect Gaines back until next week.