Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, March 3, 2004
Poor shooting and a slow tempo can spell doom for a women’s basketball game, and Tuesday night’s game seemed doomed after 39-plus minutes of dull basketball.Cue Irish senior Anne Weese. With .3 seconds remaining in the game, Weese laid the ball up and in while falling underneath the basket to send the Irish fans out of their seats for the first time all night.”I don’t really know what happened on that last play, but the ball went in, so that was exciting,” Weese, a walk-on, said of her only basket of the game.In their senior night and final regular season home game, the Irish (19-9 overall, 12-4 in Big East play) prevailed against Syracuse (6-20, 3-13), 54-33.With the win, Notre Dame finished the regular season undefeated at home and finished second in the Big East Conference.But on a night that honored the four Irish seniors, Notre Dame didn’t win pretty.”I thought that was a difficult game to play with the pace of the game,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We wanted to control the tempo and I thought offensively we really tried and they pretty much stuck to their tempo.”Seniors Weese, Le’Tania Severe, Monique Hernandez and Jeneka Joyce started for the Irish. Weese, a fan favorite, scored two points in eight minutes of action and was greeted warmly by the Joyce Center crowd each time she entered the game. Severe scored 12 points, including 8-for-10 from the free throw line. Hernandez played a tough, hustling game, as scoring six points to go along with six rebounds and five assists. Joyce, battling injury, only saw 12 minutes of action.Other than the seniors, the Irish were led by junior Jacqueline Batteast, who recorded her 10th double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman defensive specialist Breona Gray added a career-high 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting.”I thought Breona gave us a great lift off the bench,” McGraw said. “She came in and hit some shots when nobody was able to make a basket at key times. I was really pleased with her offensively. I thought Breona did a great job.”Both teams struggled to score from the start. Syracuse shot an abysmal 16.7 percent, including 1-for-12 from beyond the arc in the first half. Notre Dame shot only 38 percent (8-for-21) from the field in the first half.”It took us a while to get into gear,” McGraw said.But when the Irish finally got it going, they were able to pull away from the Orangewomen, as they went on a 15-8 run to go ahead 41-24 in a game that they never trailed. They also held the Orangewomen scoreless for the last 4:06 of the game.Gray was able to help hold the Orangewomen’s leading scorer, Julie McBride, to 12 points on 6-for-18 shooting. The rest of the Orangewomen shot only 22.4 percent, which is a season low by an Irish opponent.With the win, the Irish will have a No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament this weekend and a bye in the first round.”Now to look at the standings and say we finished second, I think we’re in a pretty good place right now,” McGraw said.