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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish win on the foul line

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Notre Dame entered Tuesday’s game against Georgetown as the nation’s best free-throw shooting team, making just over 81 percent of their foul shots. But the Irish (15-1, 4-0 Big East) outdid themselves against the Hoyas (10-7, 1-3), converting 35-of-38 free throws on their way to a chippy 79-64 victory.

Those 35-made foul shots – the third-most in program history – came courtesy of 26 Hoya fouls, 16 of which came in the first half. Georgetown junior forward Andrea White fouled out with just over a minute left in the second half. Senior center Vanessa Moore was issued her first technical for elbowing Irish sophomore guard Madison Cable in the mouth and had to leave the game when she was given a second for comments made during a tussle with Irish junior forward Natalie Achonwa. Achonwa herself also fouled out with almost two minutes left in the second half, but not before registering a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Georgetown coach Keith Brown said he thought the referees issued technical fouls that would not be called in a men’s game.

“I think that we have to get to the point in the girls game that they are in the boys game, where the referee talks to the players before you quickly ‘T’-them up,” Brown said. “Emotions are high. Things that are said in the women’s game, if it was said in the boy’s game, wouldn’t be a technical foul.”

Irish coach Muffet McGraw joked about her team’s composure despite the rough play.

“We were [on our best behavior],” McGraw said. “Our emotions were under control today.”

The Irish held Georgetown senior guard Sugar Rodgers, the nation’s top scorer, to just 14 points on the night.

“I’m really pleased with our defense on Sugar,” McGraw said. “She’s a great player, obviously. [Freshman guard] Jewell Loyd did an outstanding job covering her. She covered her the majority of the minutes, held her to a season-low, and she scored one or two when Jewell went out. So I’m really, really happy with the defense on her.”

The Irish jumped out to a 35-11 lead in the early minutes of the game, but the Hoyas went on a 13-2 run to put an end to any thoughts of an easy Irish win.

“I think the press was working, we got some steals, we were running the floor, and that’s when we hit the wall, right after that,” McGraw said. “And then [senior guard Skylar Diggins] got the two fouls and we had to take her out, and I don’t think any of the point guards were particularly ready today. I thought [sophomore guard] Whitney Holloway did a pretty good job, but we need some work with Skylar not in the game.”

The Hoyas’ aggressive play did pay off in the turnover battle. They forced the Irish into 28 giveaways – the most of the season and well above the season average of 15 turnovers.

But McGraw promised that this one aberration wouldn’t keep her up at night.

“The turnovers I thought were a lot of good ideas that we didn’t catch,” McGraw said. “Or maybe it was deflected but it was a good idea. The ones that bother me are the ones that are a result of poor decisions. And out of the 28 there were maybe eight, so we can fix that really easily.”

The Irish are now 4-0 in the Big East. They opened conference play with a 73-72 win over then-No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 5, but needed overtime to put away South Florida three days later, finally winning 75-71. Notre Dame then beat Rutgers at home last Sunday, winning 71-46.

The Irish aim to remain undefeated in conference play when St. John’s visits Purcell Pavilion for a 12 p.m. tip-off on Sunday.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu