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Women’s Basketball: Irish topple Mountaineers on road

Ken Fowler | Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dressed in green uniforms for the first time ever in a regular-season game, Notre Dame recovered from a poor first half with a strong shooting performance in the second to win 70-58 over West Virginia Wednesday in Morgantown.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw said senior point guard Megan Duffy suggested the idea for the new road jerseys.

“[Duffy] decided it,” McGraw said in a phone interview following the game. “She just kind of came in and said, ‘What do you think?’ And we thought, ‘Hey, it’s worth a try. It’s worth something.'”

Duffy responded to the new uniforms by scoring 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting (5-of-9 from 3-point range). She added four rebounds and four steals.

Sophomore guard Charel Allen – whose hometown of Monessen, Pa. is less than an hour from Morgantown – scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting off the bench. She had her own opinion of the jerseys and referenced the men’s black jerseys debuted in a Feb. 18 win over Seton Hall.

“I love them. I think they look cute,” Allen said in a CSTV radio interview. “They’re green – they’re pretty. The guys came out in their black, so we come out in our green.”

Notre Dame (15-10, 6-8 Big East) got off to a slow start and was out rebounded 24-11 in the first half. The Irish made just nine field goals in that stretch and only 4-of-7 from the foul line. But Notre Dame kept the game close, trailing West Virginia (12-13, 4-10) 28-24 at half.

“I didn’t think we were playing hard,” McGraw said. “In the first half, I was really disappointed in the whole team.

Notre Dame improved its offense in the second half. Courtney LaVere made a transition layup 23 seconds into the half, and Duffy hit a 3-pointer 40 seconds later to give the Irish the lead.

West Virginia forward Olayinka Sanni responded with an old fashioned 3-point play on the ensuing possession to regain the Mountaineers’ lead.

The two teams traded the lead over the next five minutes until Allen hit a 3-pointer with 13:18 left to put the Irish up 43-42 – one which they would not relinquish.

“The second half, I thought it was a major turnaround,” McGraw said. “We got the right people shooting the right shots.”

A Megan Duffy 3-pointer expanded Notre Dame’s lead to 48-44 with 10:54 remaining. The shot started a 12-4 run over four and a half minutes that gave the Irish a 57-48 cushion.

Notre Dame shot 18-of-29 (62 percent) from the field in the second half, including 5-of-9 (56 percent) from 3-point range.

“We were aggressive offensively [in the second half], and I think that’s why we made shots,” McGraw said. “We were moving [the ball] well.”

The Irish improved its perimeter defense following its 79-64 loss to Connecticut. Notre Dame held West Virginia to 3-of-13 from 3-point range three days after Connecticut shot 10-of-19.

Notre Dame is currently on the NCAA tournament bubble. Associate head coach Coquese Washington said the importance of the game, combined with the new green jerseys, motivated the Irish against West Virginia.

“It’s almost like we’re in the Big East Tournament right now,” Washington said in a CSTV radio interview after the game. “Every game when we step on the court, it’s for [a spot in] Big East Tournament play and NCAA Tournament play.”

Allen, who was averaging 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds before the West Virginia game, agreed with Washington’s assessment.

“We needed a win so bad,” she said. “Every game now is important to us…. I’m playing every game like it’s the playoffs, like it’s going to be our last game.”

Notre Dame plays at Cincinnati Saturday at 2 p.m.