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ND Women’s Basketball: Big East title lies within reach

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, March 1, 2005

With just one regular season game remaining, Notre Dame needs some help from a fellow Big East team if it wants to win the regular season conference title. The Irish are currently in second place behind No. 9 Rutgers (22-5, 13-2 Big East). To claim a share of the title, Notre Dame needs to beat Seton Hall tonight, and have the Scarlet Knights lose to Villanova.

Regardless of how the Rutgers game turns out, if the Irish defeat Seton Hall (14-12, 6-9 Big East) tonight, Notre Dame will finish in the top two of the Big East for the ninth time in the 10 years Notre Dame has been a member of the conference.

No. 10 Notre Dame (24-4, 12-3 Big East) is red-hot coming off an 82-57 Saturday afternoon blowout of West Virginia for Senior Day. The Irish have won 11 of their last 12 games coming into tonight’s matchup with the Pirates. During this stretch, Notre Dame has been led by senior Teresa Borton.

Borton, named last week’s Big East Player of the Week, had 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in her home finale Saturday on 8-for-9 shooting. Borton, who has not missed a game in her four years at Notre Dame, was honored Saturday along with fellow senior All-American Jacqueline Batteast. Batteast, who is a midseason candidate for the Naismith Trophy and Women’s Wooden award, is averaging 17.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

“I can’t even put into words what Teresa and Jackie mean to me,” junior point guard Megan Duffy said. “I don’t even want to think about what it’s going to be like next year without having my two sidekicks next to me. Their work ethic is something I’ve always looked up to.”

Duffy has run the show this season for the Irish, and is averaging 11.7 points per game and 5.6 assists per game. On Saturday, she had a double-double against West Virginia with 12 points and 10 assists.

“I’m really pleased,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We don’t to lose our edge right now, so I’m anxious to keep playing.”

And while the Irish are red-hot, the Pirates have struggled lately. Seton Hall lost its third in a row and fourth in five games Saturday at Syracuse. The Pirates shot just 18.5 percent in the first half, connecting on only five field goals, en route to the 51-38 loss.

The Pirates are led by senior swing player Ashley Bush, who averages 13 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Monique Blake also has solid numbers, averaging 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, while registering 1.52 blocks per game as well.

The last time these two teams met on Jan. 2, Seton Hall was at the peak of its season, with two of its three losses coming at the hands of ranked teams. Notre Dame won that matchup, its Big East opener, with a 54-33 margin, but since then the Pirates have struggled offensively – averaging just 43.2 points per game in their last five games, and scoring above the 50-point mark just once, against lowly Providence.

Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, N.J.