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ND Women’s Basketball: Scarlet blood

Deirdre Krasula | Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It was a night about defense from an Irish team known more for its high-scoring offense.

No. 14 Notre Dame – averaging 80 points per game – was held below the 60-point mark for only the third time this season in its 57-51 loss to No. 5 Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J., Tuesday night.

But it wasn’t just the Scarlet Knights defense that performed well. The Irish kept Rutgers scoreless for 11 minutes throughout the course of the game.

“I felt that we really improved since the last time we played a top-five team,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “And on their home court we gave them a great game, but I thought we could have won. We missed some easy shots and we didn’t do a good job rebounding.”

Both Notre Dame and Rutgers struggled to perform in the paint in the first half, continually missing shots and combining for 19 turnovers.

The Scarlet Knights looked to turn things around 12 minutes into the game with a 9-0 run to cruise to a 22-14 lead with 6:21 left in the half. But that spurt ended Rutgers’ output in the opening period. The Irish rallied to score the next eight points, with the final two coming on a buzzer-beater by guard Charel Allen to tie the game at 22.

Notre Dame continued to play tough defense in the second half, holding Rutgers scoreless in the first few minutes after halftime.

The Scarlet Knights finally managed to put points on the board when junior center Kia Vaughn’s putback in the fourth minute brought Rutgers down only two. Vaughn’s basket sparked a 17-5 run over Notre Dame to give Rutgers a 41-33 lead. The Irish did not regain the lead and never managed to get closer than four points for the rest of the game.

McGraw was happy with Notre Dame’s ability to shut down Rutgers, but said she would have liked to see more from her offense.

“I thought we did a great job defensively to hold them to 57,” McGraw said. “That was our goal, we wanted to keep the game in the 50s and I felt we did a really good job of that, so I was really pleased with our defense. They’re an excellent defensive team as well, and we really just missed a lot of shots that we probably could have made.”

Sophomore guard Epiphanny Prince led the Scarlet Knights in scoring with 18 points and senior guard Matee Ajavon added 15. Allen matched Prince with 18 points for the Irish and guard Lindsay Schrader chipped in 10.

Despite the production from Allen and Schrader, the Irish struggled to score in the paint.

“We missed shots, we just missed too many shots,” McGraw said. “We had a lot of opportunities to win the game, and we didn’t rebound and we missed shots, and that was the game.”