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Irish suffer rude awakening

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, December 2, 2003

After starting the season 2-1, the Irish were unable to maintain the momentum gained in their first home win Nov. 21 when they faced Michigan State and Tennessee last week.

The holiday games started for the Irish Wednesday night, when they traveled to East Lansing to face the 3-0 Spartans.

Notre Dame found they were in for a fight when Michigan State ended the first half with a 45-29 lead.

“Offensively, I thought they made every shot they took,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “They just had one of those games when everything went right for them.”

The Irish fell victim to turnovers, committing 19. They also failed to grab an offensive rebound in the first half.

In the end, the Spartans handed the Irish their worst loss in ten years, 92-63.

“I thought Michigan State just played a great game,” McGraw said. “They came out with a lot of intensity and played harder than we did. And we were flat-footed the whole game.”

Michigan State’s dynamic duo of Lindsay Bowen and Kristin Haynie were just too much for the Irish, as they combined for 49 points, 26 for Bowen and 23 for Haynie.

Jacqueline Batteast and Courtney LaVere led the Irish with 12 points apiece.

Sunday, the Irish traveled to Knoxville to face No. 3 Tennessee (2-0), and the results were not much different than Wednesday night.

The Lady Volunteers came out firing, jumping out to a 20-7 lead in the first nine minutes of the game. The Irish turned the ball over 14 times, and by the end of the first half, the Irish were down 45-23.

Shyra Ely led the Lady Volunteers with 20 points on 8-18 shooting. Ashley Robinson added 14 and Shanna Zolman added 13 points.

“We are a long way from where we want to be,” McGraw said. “Shyra Ely was able to set the tone for Tennessee and she created several problems for our defense. I was definitely impressed with her play.”

However, not all was lost on the game for the Irish. Against Tennessee, guards Megan Duffy and Le’Tania Severe played fairly well. Duffy finished with 14 points on 6-11 shooting, with two late three pointers, while Severe tallied 13 points on 6-10 shooting.

The play of these guards allowed the Irish to have a strong second half, scoring 36 points to the Lady Volunteers’ 38.

The Irish also had only seven turnovers in the second half.

“We didn’t turn the ball over as much in the second half and we competed much better, something we can carry into our next game,” McGraw said. “I thought our guard play, specifically Le’Tania [Severe] and Megan [Duffy], was positive for us. They each played well defensively and provided important contributions offensively.”

Batteast also had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Irish.

The loss improved Tennessee’s all time record against the Irish to 16-0. They are the only team who has played at least ten times against the Irish and never lost.

The Irish now have to search for answers, as they drop out of the top 25 for the first time in the early season.

“Tennessee did a good job of taking us out of what we wanted to accomplish on the offensive end,” McGraw said. “We just couldn’t seem to find our rhythm offensively and they were able to force us into many mistakes.”