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ND Women’s Basketball: House of Cards

Jay Fitzpatrick | Thursday, February 12, 2009

Despite giving up a 13-0 run, having two Louisville players register double-doubles, and shooting only 37.9 percent from the floor, No. 22 Notre Dame still had a chance to win at the end of Wednesday night’s game. Angel McCoughtry made sure they didn’t.

The 6-foot-1 Louisville senior forward nailed three free throws with 1:16 remaining in the game to push the score to 66-61, which all but crushed any attempt at an Irish comeback. The No. 12 Cardinals went on to win 71-65.

“This is the Angel that I’m used to seeing,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “She occupies so many people because she can score so quick. And she found a way to get to the free throw line and hits three big threes.”

To get to the charity stripe, McCoughtry heaved a desperation shot with one second remaining on the shot clock and was fouled by Irish point guard Melissa Lechlitner.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw was unsure about whether a foul was the correct call.

“I didn’t [think it was a foul], but I’m sitting on the Notre Dame side [of the court],” McGraw said. “It thought it was all-ball. And it was kind of not really even a shot. She barely had control when she shot it, so I thought maybe we’d get lucky there and go get the rebound.”

But regardless of whether or not the foul was legitimate, McGraw said that was the most important moment of the game.

“That was key, that put it to a two-possesion game,” McGraw said. “That really hurt us.”

McCoughtry was a little more confident that the officials made the correct decision.

“I just felt her swat down on me,” she said. “…I always feel like I am fouled.”

McCoughtry finished the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds, one of two Cardinals with double-doubles against Notre Dame. The other, forward Candyce Bingham, had 21 points and 12 rebounds.

McGraw said she was disappointed that her team could not complete a comeback late in the game.

“I thought we did some good things to get it close, and then we turned it over or we would just make a critical mistake at the wrong time.”

Even more important for the Louisville effort was McCoughtry’s defense. The Cardinals forward was the leader of the Louisville press, and provided a constant force in the half-court defense, nabbing eight steals in the win.

“She’s really athletic but you can’t let it get to you, and I think she got a couple of easy steals today, too, because we weren’t taking care of the ball,” Irish guard Ashley Barlow said.

McGraw said McCoughtry is one of best anticipators in the country in the passing lanes.

“It’s hard to prepare [for playing McCoughtry] because she’s everywhere defensively and she plays the passing lane so well. We were trying not to throw it near her and we didn’t execute that very well,” McGraw said.

Earlier in the second half the Irish had a chance to pull ahead of Louisville. Notre Dame fell behind by 10 points going into halftime, but a 13-4 run capped by a Barlow layup brought the score to 42-41 Louisville. Cardinals forward Keisha Hines responded 10 seconds later with a layup of her own, sparking a 13-0 run. The Irish did not score again until freshman guard Natalie Novosel made a layup with 5:20 later.

“There were a few turnovers and layups in there and that just hurt us. We just didn’t handle the press well, missed some shots, they got some easy ones,” McGraw said. “I thought they beat our zone inside a lot, which was disappointing.”

In the loss, the Irish had three players score in double figures: forward Becca Bruszewski (18), Natalie Novosel (17), and Barlow (16).

Note:

uWhen Irish guard Ashley Barlow sank a free throw with 37 seconds left to make the score 66-63, she had also just scored her 1,000th career point at Notre Dame.

“I think in the junior year, it’s an outstanding accomplishment and Ashley has always been an incredibly hard-worker,” McGraw said. “She’s always inside trying to help the team win in any way she can; she’s unselfish. So it’s a great accomplishment for her.”