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Women’s Basketball: Irish lose in overtime after late comeback

Ken Fowler | Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Notre Dame erased a 21-point second-half deficit Tuesday but fell short in overtime against Villanova, losing 69-65 in front of 6,300 fans at the Joyce Center.

“We lost the game at the end when we couldn’t get a defensive rebound,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We took a couple of quick shots and we just … consistently beat ourselves by missing free throws. … We just can’t seem to make them when it counts.”

Liad Suez-Karni registered a triple-double for the Wildcats with 10 rebounds and 10 assists to go along with her 14 points.

With 2:08 remaining in overtime, Villanova was up by two but had just one second left on the shot clock. Suez-Karni drew a holding foul on Irish guard Megan Duffy, and the senior forward hit both free throws to give the Wildcats a four-point lead.

“I got beat time and time again defensively in overtime,” Duffy said. “If you can’t stop them, you can’t win.”

But Duffy, who sent the game to overtime with a driving lay-up from the left side with 11 seconds left in regulation, responded on offense, with a self-created three-pointer that cut Notre Dame’s deficit to one with 36.8 seconds left.

“I just tried to get a shot off,” Duffy said. “I saw that my defender’s hands were down, and then I just gave it a chance.”

The Irish (14-8, 5-6 Big East) tried to trap Villanova (13-8, 4-6) in the backcourt after the basket, but Wildcat point guard Betsy McManus got the ball away from the defenders and into the hands of Jenna Viani, who led all scorers with 22 points. Charel Allen fouled Viani, who made both free throws to extend the lead to three with 22 seconds remaining.

The Irish pushed the ball up the court, but they couldn’t set up an open three-pointer for the tie. Duffy tried to draw contact on a desperation three with nine seconds left, but no foul was called, and Viani collected the rebound.

“You’re never going to get a foul called on that shot,” McGraw said. “You’ve got to earn the win. I should have called a timeout when I saw the play broke down and we didn’t have anything.”

The Irish struggled for the first 24 minutes of the game to establish an offensive rhythm, and the Wildcats took full advantage of Notre Dame’s mistakes.

After several consecutive games with serious shooting woes, the Wildcats shot 50 percent in the first half and finished 7-of-15 from behind the three-point line for the game.

“I have no idea what happened,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “When the game starts, with this particular team I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen.”

Villanova led 32-20 at the half, and with 16:31 left in the game, Kate Dessart Mager made a lay-up to give the Wildcats a 43-22 lead.

But Perretta was still worried about his inconsistent offense of the past.

“When we’re up 20, you’d think you’d be feeling really good,” he said. “I’m panicking.”

Perretta’s worries were prescient fears. From that point on, the Irish began to quickly chip away at the difference.

Allen sparked the Notre Dame comeback, scoring 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field in the second half. Allen scored eight points in the five minutes after the Wildcats went up by 21, and Notre Dame had the lead down to 12. The Irish then held Villanova without a field goal for the next four-plus minutes, and a Lindsay Schrader free throw tied the game at 52 with 7:14 remaining.

But Notre Dame would lose its momentum seconds later, when Schrader missed a pair of free throws that would have given the Irish a two-point lead. Suez-Karni converted on a three-point play after she was fouled by Allen on a layup.

Thanks to another five-minute stretch during which Villanova failed to make a field goal, the Irish managed to tie the game again and then take their first lead of the game with 2:08 remaining in regulation when Allen hit a leaner in the lane.

But Viani made two layups in the final 70 seconds for the Wildcats to give them a two-point lead until Duffy’s basket tied it.

Notes:

u The last time an Irish opponent had a triple-double was Jan. 24, 1989 when DePaul’s Diana Vines registered 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 steals.

Suez-Karni’s triple-double was the first by a Villanova player since 1987, when Shelly Pennefather achieved the feat for the Wildcats against Providence. Pennefather is now a cloistered nun in Virginia.

u Had the Irish won the game, it would have set the record for largest deficit overcome in program history and tied the second largest comeback in NCAA history. Notre Dame came back from a 47-31 halftime hole against Connecticut to win 90-75 in the 2001 Final Four, en route to its national championship. The NCAA record is 22 points, and the Irish would have tied the Big East mark set by Marquette last month, when the Golden Eagles came back from a 21-point deficit at West Virginia to win.