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ND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Irish come back from 11 points down at half to beat Rutgers

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, January 24, 2005

What began as a nightmare for Notre Dame ended in a career day for Irish coach Muffet McGraw.Down 11 points at halftime, the No. 11 Irish held the No. 6 Scarlet Knights to 16 second half points en route to a 63-47 win, McGraw’s 400th at the helm of the Irish. Irish forward Jacqueline Batteast had 18 of her 27 points in the second half as she shot 10-for-20 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line.”It just feels great to win this game,” McGraw said. “I think this was a really important game for us, especially at home.”Notre Dame (16-3, 4-2 in the Big East) dug itself a hole early, as the Irish turned the ball over 16 times in the first half, leading to 19 Rutgers (13-4, 4-1) points. The Irish only led for less than a minute in the first half, as Teresa Borton scored off the opening tip to make it 2-0. But Rutgers immediately responded, scoring five unanswered points, and the Scarlet Knights appeared to be on their way. They scored 10 fast break points in the first half, beating the Irish up and down the floor.”I think that everything that could have went wrong in the first half did,” Irish point guard Megan Duffy said. Rutgers pressured the ball, forced turnovers, and shot well to extend its lead to 31-18 with 1:06 to play in the first half. Chelsea Newton had 13 points on 6-for-13 shooting in the first half, and Cappie Pondexter added eight as the Scarlet Knights shot 46.7 percent from the field on the half, to Notre Dame’s 30.4 percent shooting.However, despite being down 31-20 at halftime, the Irish came out firing in the second half.Fueled by 12 straight points from Batteast, the Irish went on a 12-7 run to start the half, cutting the Scarlet Knights lead to 38-32. But Rutgers fought back, as it extended the lead to 40-32 with 12:13 to play on a lay-up from Mariota Theodoris.Notre Dame pulled to within 43-40 on a lay-up from Charel Allen, and then the Irish found their game on both ends of the court.With the Irish down 45-40, Duffy hit a three-pointer and Allen added two free throws to tie the game for the first time since the beginning of the first half. This started a 23-0 run with 7:48 to play that lasted until Pondexter hit a jumper with eight seconds to go and the Irish up by 18 points.”Twenty-three points? That’s crazy,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said of the run. “It was like, ‘What the heck is going on?'”Notre Dame’s matchup 2-3 zone held Rutgers to just 16 second half points, two less than Batteast scored in the half. “I thought we won the game with our zone,” McGraw said. “Our defense in the second half was outstanding.”As a team, Notre Dame shot 63.6 percent from the field in the second half, contrary to Rutgers’ woeful 17.1 percent shooting. The Irish also turned the ball over just five times in the half, 11 times less than the first half.”We finally got them to take tougher shots,” Batteast said. “Once we took care of the ball better and we locked down on ‘D,’ the game went our way.”Newton finished with 18 points and four steals while Pondexter had 17 points and seven turnovers.Batteast was the only Irish player in double figures, but Duffy finished with seven points and a career high 11 assists, eight in the second half, for the Irish. Allen added eight points, six rebounds and four steals, and Courtney LaVere added nine points and five rebounds off the bench.”For as bad as we played, we could have been blown out in the first half,” Batteast said. “We just made the adjustments we were supposed to [make], and we ended up winning the game.”