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Down to the wire

Bill Brink | Thursday, December 11, 2008

Once Michigan guard Jessica Minnfield forced overtime, Wolverines forward Stephany Skrba took full advantage of it.

Back-to-back layups from Skrba gave Michigan a one-point lead, and the Wolverines hung on to beat No. 8 Notre Dame 63-59 in overtime in Ann Arbor, Mich. Wednesday night.

The Irish unbeaten streak ends at seven, while Michigan moves to 2-2 against ranked teams.

Skrba lit up Crisler Arena, scoring 20 points on 10-11 shooting. With 3:25 remaining in overtime, Irish freshman forward Kellie Watson hit a 3-pointer to give Notre Dame a 59-56 lead. Skrba, however, drove for a layup, then drove again after Notre Dame (7-1) turned the ball over under its own basket.

“I think we’re a very poised team at the end of the game, we just weren’t tonight,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

Michigan’s offensive rebounding helped them kill clock on its next possession. The Wolverines (6-4) took three 3-pointers and recovered two of them, running the shot clock down each time. Freshman forward Erica Solomon and senior guard Lindsay Schrader both had chances at layups, but both missed, and Notre Dame and was forced to foul. Michigan made three of its four foul shots to seal the win.

The offensive rebounds hurt Notre Dame’s chances even though they didn’t result in points, McGraw said.

“It took time away, even though they didn’t score,” she said. “It took time we needed at the end.”

Irish guard Brittany Mallory landed awkwardly on her leg when jumping to break up a pass and fell to the court in pain. She was helped off the court. McGraw said she didn’t know the extent of the injury and that Mallory will see the doctor tomorrow.

Irish guard Ashley Barlow did not start the game, but scored 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 37 minutes off the bench. She had been battling a concussion she suffered against Michigan State on Nov. 29 and had not played since then.

“She played well, she did a lot of good things,” McGraw said. “She defended well, she rebounded well. I thought actually she had the best game of anyone.”

Forward Becca Bruszewski finished with 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting. Guard Melissa Lechlitner had nine, and Schrader and Solomon each had eight.

Minnfield finished with 16 points and went 7-for-7 from the foul line.

Wolverines forward Carly Benson had eight points and eight rebounds.

Notre Dame had a 56-54 lead until Wolverines guard Jessica Minnfield sliced into the lane and sank a shot to tie the score. Schrader and Barlow each made jump shots to pull ahead 56-52 with 31 seconds left, but Wolverines guard Veronica Hicks made two free throws to pull within two once again. Then Skrba penetrated the Irish zone defense to tie the game and force overtime.

Barlow and Bruszewski scored to start the second half and Notre Dame went up five, its largest lead of the game, but Minnfield’s 3-pointer helped the Wolverines even the score. The score flip-flopped until 5:35, when Barlow and Solomon sank shots to give Notre Dame a 50-46 lead. Skrba made a jumper and Minnfield hit two free throws to tie the score, and from there, Minnfield made sure Michigan got the time it needed to win.

In the first half, guard Melissa Lechlitner’s 3-pointer put the Irish ahead by four, but they fell behind 10-9 with 15:40 to go. Mallory hit a 3 to regain a two-point lead, but the score yo-yoed back and forth until Wolverine guard Carmen Reynolds hit a 3-pointer to put Michigan up five with 7:16 left in the first half. Bruszewski made two free throws and a jumper to give Notre Dame the lead, which it held going into the half.

“We had lots of opportunities,” McGraw said. “We just didn’t take advantage.”

The Irish travel to face Valparaiso Saturday at 2:35 p.m.