ND Women’s Basketball: Irish outlast late WVU rally
Joe Meixell | Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Notre Dame had five players in double figures and managed to hold off West Virginia 72-66 in the teams’ regular season finale Monday afternoon at the Joyce Center.
Despite the win, Irish coach Muffet McGraw was slightly disappointed with her team’s performance in their final game before heading into the conference tournament this weekend.
“I think we’re a lot better. We want to go in on a high to the Big East tournament,” she said.
The Irish led the entire way, but pulled ahead midway through the second half and expanded their lead to 14 points with 12:07 to play.
After that, West Virginia started to claw their way back into the game through a combination of poor Irish free-throw shooting and making their own 3-pointers – a longtime sore spot for the Irish.
“I thought we got complacent. We let them have a couple 3s right back to back. We didn’t follow our game plan defensively,” McGraw said.
The free throws were more of a surprise for McGraw. The Irish on the season shoot just under 70 percent from the line, but Monday afternoon they were only 14-of-24, or 58.3 percent.
McGraw said the free throws were mostly about a lack of focus.
“I think that’s what free throws are mostly, focus and repetition. And Ashley Barlow, a great free throw shooter, she missed a few – front ends of 1-and-1’s,” McGraw said.
Forward Becca Bruszewski finally made the shots the Irish needed when she stepped up and nailed two from the charity stripe to push the lead back to seven points.
“I thought Becca’s two free throws were really key. That was really important. When she made those I thought that made a real difference in the game,” McGraw said.
The game against the Mountaineers posed two strange circumstances for the Irish. The first was the tip-off, which was at 3:30 p.m., the only weekday matinee for the squad this season. The game time changed the schedule for the Irish, forcing some to miss the ends of classes to make the team meal and shoot-around.
“It’s definitely a different set of circumstances,” McGraw said of the start-time. “I was happy to play in the afternoon to get the game over with. A veteran team you expect to come out better.”
McGraw added that she never wanted to play a 3:30 game again.
The other odd situation for the Irish against West Virginia was the Mountaineer lineup, which injuries this season have limited to only seven players.
“It’s very frustrating. We lose our point guard because she’s sick today, so she doesn’t play and all of the sudden we have to move everybody out of position and it’s very frustrating,” Mountaineers coach Mike Carey said.
Irish guard Lindsay Schrader said she didn’t see any difference in the Mountaineers’ intensity or hustle during the game despite their small numbers.
“At the start of the game when we lined up for the national anthem I was like, alright, we’re going to run them out. They’re a tough team, they’re a running team,” she said.
The game puts the Irish at 10-6 in the Big East, tied with DePaul and Villanova for fourth place.
uSchrader’s 14 points and 11 rebounds gives her three double-doubles in her last five games and six on the season. That ties the Notre Dame record for double-doubles in a season by a guard, set by Danielle Green in 1998-1999.
“That is really a difficult accomplishment. She’s been doing a great job on the boards and has been our leading rebounder all year long,” McGraw said. “She’s somebody we really count on to get a big rebound at the end of the game, and she’s been able to do that. She’s been working the offensive boards pretty well, and I thought she did another good job of that today.”
uMonday’s game was senior night for the Irish, who don’t have any graduating seniors on the roster. Schrader, who tore her ACL during the 2006-07 season, will petition for a fifth-year of eligibility. The team did recognize senior managers Brad Lenoir and Caitlin Madden before the game.
uThere was a moment of silence before the game to honor longtime South Bend Tribune writer and women’s basketball beat writer Forrest “Woody” Miller, who passed away on Saturday.