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Women’s Basketball: Irish bow out of NCAAs in first round

Ken Fowler | Friday, May 19, 2006

After starting the season with six straight victories, the Irish struggled for much of the rest of their schedule before losing to Boston College 78-61 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in West Lafayette, Ind.

Senior point guard Megan Duffy led Notre Dame all season, averaging 15.6 points, 4.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 38.4 minutes per game.

Notre Dame finished the year 18-12 (8-8 Big East). The NCAA Tournament loss marked the second straight season in which the Irish failed to advance to the Sweet 16. The team lost 70-61 to Arizona State in the second round in 2005.

“Obviously, this isn’t the way I wanted to go out, and this isn’t acceptable for the Notre Dame program,” Duffy said after the loss to Boston College.

Notre Dame began the season in the top-25 and moved all the way up to No. 10 with its 6-0 start, which included a 55-45 victory over Michigan at the Joyce Center and a 74-61 win over Indiana in Bloomington.

But Notre Dame lost 65-54 to Purdue Dec. 7 and then fell 62-51 to perennial powerhouse Tennessee at the Joyce Center Dec. 31 – a game which took the wind out of the team’s sails.

Two-thirds of the way through the season, Notre Dame was still fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. After losing three games in a row to Villanova, DePaul and Connecticut by a combined 48 points, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said the team needed to play with more urgency.

Notre Dame responded and secured a No. 9 seed by winning its last three regular-season contests and topping South Florida in the first round of the Big East tournament in Hartford, Conn., before losing to the Huskies in the quarterfinals.

The winning streak began Feb. 25 in Cincinnati when things were at their bleakest for the Irish.

Down 57-55 with 2.4 second left, Tulyah Gaines caught a tip from Schrader off Courtney LaVere’s inbounds pass, drove to the lane, elevated and hit the leaning layup as the buzzer sounded.

“That’s a play we practice a lot when we go through game situations,” Gaines said after the game. “Lindsay did a great job of finding me [after] Courtney threw a great pass.”

But Notre Dame’s run ended with two straight defeats.

In the first-round NCAA Tournament loss, Irish freshman guard Lindsay Schrader scored 29 points on 12-for-23 shooting. Duffy said her performance marked a transition in the offensive leadership of the team.

Two months after the season ended, Schrader was one of 37 players invited to participate in the tryouts for the USA Under-20 national team.

Duffy was selected by the Minnesota Lynx in the third round of the WNBA Draft April 5. The Lynx will announce their roster for the upcoming season May 22.