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ND Women’s Basketball: ND beats Michigan State

Alex Barker | Friday, November 20, 2009

With the game tied and just seconds to play, the Irish had three chances to take the lead and the third time proved to be the charm.

Senior guard Ashley Barlow’s free throw with just 10 seconds remaining put No. 5 Notre Dame in front, and the Irish held on for a narrow 68-67 victory over No. 21 Michigan State Thursday night in East Lansing, Mich.

“It was just a huge, smart play and [Barlow] came up big for us there,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “She did a great job to go after the ball on the miss and was able to make the free throw in a high-pressure situation.”

The Spartans (1-2) had a chance to grab the lead with 12 seconds to go, but Michigan State center Allyssa DeHaan’s layup attempt rolled off the rim and Irish guard Lindsey Schrader grabbed the rebound before being fouled.

Schrader went to the line but missed the front end of a one-and-one as the game remained tied at 67. As luck would have it, the rebound fell through the hands of DeHaan and right to into the arms of Barlow, who was immediately fouled on her put-back attempt.

After another missed Irish free throw, Barlow stepped up and converted her second opportunity and put Notre Dame ahead for good. The Spartans drove down the court but could not convert on a desperation attempt with four seconds to go.

Barlow led the Irish (2-0) with 18 points and seven rebounds behind 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc. Freshman guard Skylar Diggins added nine for the Irish, who shot 22-of-65, or 34 percent from the floor as a team.

After holding a slim advantage for much of the first half, the Irish pulled away to take a 41-33 lead into halftime. Notre Dame pushed that lead to 45-35 early in the second half before Michigan State responded with a 15-2 run to go ahead with 11:52 remaining.

“We just stopped guarding them,” McGraw said. “We had a few defensive breakdowns and they had a few easy open shots. We panicked a little bit, but we were able to regroup when we needed to.”

The Spartans held their largest lead of the game at 56-51 before the Irish surged back in front with an 8-0 run with just under nine minutes to play.

Despite giving up a big size advantage to the Spartan front court, led by the 6-foot-9 DeHaan, the Irish held their own on the boards and were outrebounded by a slim margin, 45-44. Schrader was a big reason for that, pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with 12 points.

“Schrader and Barlow did a nice job rebounding for us,” McGraw said. “But I wasn’t happy with the rest of the team. We missed a lot of box-outs tonight and we should have done better.”

Notre Dame had a much better night in the turnover department, improving upon its performance in the first game of the season. The Irish turned the ball over just 17 times after committing 27 against Arkansas Pine-Bluff, while forcing 21 Spartan turnovers.
“[We cut down on the turnovers] a little bit, but we still had some really bad ones,” McGraw said.

DeHaan, despite facing a number of Irish double teams throughout the night, led the Spartans with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Lykendra Johnson added 14 points and 12 rebounds for Michigan State in the loss.

“I was a little disappointed [in our defense against DeHaan] in that she had a season high and she really hadn’t played well in their first two games,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame returns home to face Iona Sunday at the Purcell Pavilion. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.