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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish lose second straight, fall to seventh in conference

Bill Brink | Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Twice in three days, Notre Dame trailed by one point at halftime. And twice in three days, the Irish lost by double figures.

Again down by just one at half in Monday’s game against DePaul, the Irish were outscored 51-38 in the second half of an 87-73 loss to the Blue Demons. The Irish lost 76-60 to Rutgers Saturday after having a similar deficit at halftime.

DePaul forward Caprice Smith scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Blue Demon effort. Smith was one of four Blue Demons to score in double figures, along with guard Jenna Rubino (17), guard Allie Quigley (15) and guard Missy Mitidiero (15).

The Blue Demons sank 11-of-22 three-point attempts and prevented the Irish (19-10, 10-6 Big East) from staging a comeback. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw had stressed the need for improvement of the Irish perimeter defense before, and did so again last night.

“They’re a really good shooting team, and we’re a really poor defensive team from the three-point line,” McGraw said. “Have been all year.”

DePaul (18-11, 8-8 Big East) shot 38 percent from field-goal range and 71 percent from the free-throw line in the first half, but increased those numbers in the second half, shooting 53 percent from field-goal range and 82 percent from the line. Notre Dame, in contrast, hit 48 percent of its field goals and 78 percent of its free throws in the first half, but made only 40 percent from field-goal range and hit just 56 percent of free-throw attempts in the second half.

Fouls played an important role in the game. Two quick fouls on Allen limited her playing time in the first half and limited her to just four points in the half. She finished with 10 on the night.

“When your best scorer is on the bench, it makes it a little more difficult to get in a rhythm offensively,” McGraw said.

The game was physical. DePaul committed 12 fouls in the second half, while Notre Dame committed 10.

“It wasn’t any more physical than we expected,” McGraw said.

Guard Tulyah Gaines left the game with a shoulder injury early in the second half, and Allen left later in the half with an ankle problem.

“[Gaines] got hit with a really hard screen and she hurt her shoulder,” McGraw said.

Both Gaines and Allen returned later in the game.

Ashley Barlow led the Irish Monday, sinking three 3-pointers on her way to scoring 21 points. Guard Breona Gray had 15 points and also made three 3-pointers. Gaines ended with 14 points.

The Irish were out-rebounded 44-33 and out-scored 18-10 in the paint.

Notre Dame kept the game close in the first half, leading by seven with 5:52 remaining. The Blue Demons went on an 11-3 run to take the lead 34-33 with 3:02 remaining in the half, led by 3-pointers from Rubino and Mitidiero.

In the beginning of the second half, successive turnovers allowed DePaul to score 12 of the first 16 points of the half and take a 48-39 lead. The Blue Demons scored 19 points off of turnovers to Notre Dame’s 10.

Free throws by Gaines and a jumper by guard Melissa Lechlitner brought Notre Dame to within five points with 15:37 remaining. The Irish would again pull to within five after Allen converted a layup, and then a jumper, with 12:57 left. At this point, Smith took over as the Blue Demons pulled away.

The loss dropped Notre Dame to the No. 7 seed in the Big East tournament. The Irish will face No. 10 seed DePaul again Saturday at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Big East tournament.