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ND Women’s Basketball: Left defenseless

Jay Fitzpatrick | Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rutgers guard Brittany Ray had 26 points – including a 4-for-6 performance from beyond the arc – and the rest of the Scarlet Knights helped her upend Notre Dame 78-68 Tuesday night at the Joyce Center.

Ray was not the only Scarlet Knight to have a great offensive game against the Irish. Epiphanny Prince, who led the team going into Tuesday’s game with 20.4 points per game, added 24 points to the Rutgers effort.

“It was mostly an incredible lack of awareness and effort to know that those [Prince and Ray] were the two ones to guard,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

After playing great defense on the Scarlet Knights’ first few possessions, the Rutgers shooters found their stroke and started lighting it up from beyond the arc. Ray got Rutgers on the board first with a pair of 3-pointers from the left corner on back-to-back possessions. Prince got into the action next by nailing two treys of her own.

After giving up four free throws early to the Irish, the Scarlet Knights surged to a big first half lead with a 17-point run.

The Irish did not score their first field goal of the game until the 10:22 mark of the first half when freshman guard Natalie Novosel took a pass from guard Ashley Barlow for the layup. McGraw said she did not think Rutgers was playing particularly good defense, and placed the blame on her team for the lack of offensive output.

“I thought our shot selection was questionable at times,” McGraw said.

Foul trouble haunted Rutgers during the last nine minutes of the first half, committing 12 fouls and sending the Irish to the line 19 times before halftime. Those fouls helped get the Irish back into the game with a 7-0 run before another pair of Ray 3-pointers stretched the lead back to 23-12.

In the second half, Rutgers was able to extend its lead steadily throughout the second half in part due to strong defense. Notre Dame also had many quick possessions in the second half, looking for quick baskets to get back in the game. The team’s inability to make shots and rebound kept the Irish out of the game and helped the Scarlet Knights push the lead to 15.

The lead hovered around 15 points until a controversial play midway through the half. Rutgers guard Khadijah Rushdan nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing as an official blew a foul away from the ball. The basket and the foul were both called and Prince’s two foul shots finished the five-point swing for Rutgers, making the score 57-39.

“The rule is that if she’s in her motion to shoot the ball, the basket counts. I didn’t see the foul,” McGraw said of the explanation she received from the officials. “I thought it was very clearly after the whistle … but her point was that, if she’s in her motion to shoot it, then the basket counts, very much like an NBA continuation type of thing.”

For how much the whistles went Notre Dame’s way in the first half, they burned the Irish in the second. Numerous times an Irish stop was undone by a defensive foul, sending Rutgers to the charity stripe 15 times in the half.

One of the bright spots for the Irish in the game was guard Natalie Novosel, who posted 19 points and four rebounds in the loss.

Only a late hot streak could salvage the score differential, if not the game. The Irish went on a 13-2 run against the Scarlet Knight bench over the last 1:16 to bring the score to a more reasonable finish.

Notes

u The announced attendance of 10,082 was the eighth largest crowd in school history. The Irish have had six sellouts.

u The Irish honored area blood donors during the game, and especially Chuck Weber, who donated 54 gallons of blood, the most in St. Joseph County.