Close USC win is Irish victory
Matt Lozar | Tuesday, November 30, 2004
LOS ANGELES – Last season it took five games.
This season it only took one, but it wasn’t pretty.
Struggling in its first road game of the season, Notre Dame (6-0) was able to put it together late in the second half and escape with a 60-56 win at Southern California (1-2) Friday night.
“I thought they played a great defensive game,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They are terrific defensively. They are physical, strong inside, rebound like crazy. I thought that was the difference in the game.”
USC outrebounded the Irish 42-36, including 18-7 on the offensive boards. The Irish committed 23 turnovers and the teams combined for 48 overall.
“It was a little bit of a track meet especially in the beginning,” McGraw said. “We want to run too, but maybe a little smarter. … I did expect a very physical game, and we certainly got that.”
Jacqueline Batteast scored Notre Dame’s first six points en route to the Irish opening up a 16-9 lead seven and a half minutes into the game. The Irish then scored two points in the next 7:18 as the Trojans closed to within two at 18-16.
Searching for some offense, McGraw inserted Melissa D’Amico into the Irish lineup and the freshman sparked a 7-0 run by scoring five points and blocking a shot that led to an easy Batteast layup.
“I thought she was the difference in the first half,” McGraw said. “She came in, she was strong in the post, blocked a shot, got a couple of rebounds and scored. That’s what we needed her to do.”
With a 29-20 halftime lead, the Irish came out cold scoring seven points and making two field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half. The Trojans used a 20-7 spurt to gain a 40-36 lead.
The Irish tied the game at 40 only to see the Trojans open up their biggest lead of the game at 45-40. McGraw called a timeout and had a simple message for her team.
“[I told them to get back to] running our offense, we were going one-on-one too much. I thought we were putting too much on Jackie – save us, [by] throw[ing] her the ball,” McGraw said. “Then we got into the offense we did the triple hand off where Megan [Duffy] got the layup. That’s what we need to do.”
With 7:59 left in the game, the Irish followed McGraw’s message, were patient with their offense and then clamped down on defense. Using a 10-0 run, the Irish built a 50-45 lead in the next four minutes.
USC never got closer than three the rest of the way, and the Irish made all six of their free throws in the last 26 seconds to close out their sixth straight win to open the season.
The Irish return to the court tonight at Valparaiso.
u Duffy was hit in the neck in the second half and had trouble talking for the rest of the game. She went to the bench a couple of plays after getting hit, but returned later and finished the game.
u Forward Courtney LaVere injured her right ankle in the second half after making a jump shot with 4:49 remaining in the game. She did not return to the game.
u Irish freshman Tulyah Gaines saw her first action since the season opener early in the first half of the game against the Trojans and played 14 minutes overall. Gaines had missed the past four games due to a neck injury.