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WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Women break UConn’s 121-game home Big East winning streak

Joe Hettler | Monday, January 31, 2005

The first time Notre Dame and Connecticut met this season, the Huskies handled the Irish 67-50 at the Joyce Center Jan. 12. This time around, Notre Dame returned the favor and in doing so ended a 12-year-old Connecticut streak.Courtney LaVere had 14 points, Megan Duffy added 12 points and a career-high seven steals and No. 6 Notre Dame hung on to a 65-59 victory over No. 10 Connecticut Sunday evening in Storrs. It marked the first time the Huskies had lost at home in a regular season Big East game since a Feb. 27, 1993 contest against Georgetown. “We’re extremely excited and proud of our effort tonight,” Duffy said. “We’ve never come into Storrs and beaten them on their home court. It was a total team effort.”Notre Dame All-American Jacqueline Batteast logged 37 minutes, but was mostly ineffective thanks to having the stomach flu. She finished the game just 3-of-17 from the field for nine points.Despite Batteast’s struggles, the Irish still got payback on their biggest conference rival.”I thought we were more aggressive and not intimidated, and I just felt we played our game and did what they did to us,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.Notre Dame forced 16 first-half turnovers and converted those possession changes into 17 points. Extending their 2-3 zone defense and using a full-court press at times, the Irish continuously pressured Connecticut’s point guards and intercepted numerous sloppy cross-court passes.”I thought they took a lot of time off the clock, and we were able to get some deflections which led to steals,” McGraw said.Notre Dame took command of the game late in the first half by sprinting off a 10-0 run that helped give the Irish a 34-24 halftime advantage. But Connecticut came roaring back in the second half, cutting the lead down to two at 38-36 on a Jessica Moore layup with just more than 16 minutes left. The Irish battled to stay in front, and extended their lead back to seven when Charel Allen drained a field goal with 10:58 remaining. Allen ended the game with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.With 4:36 left, Ann Strother, who finished the game with 25 points and seven 3-pointers, drilled a 3-pointer to trim Notre Dame’s lead to just one at 52-51. On the ensuing Irish possession, Batteast nearly lost the ball out of bounds before firing a pass to Allen in the corner of the court. With the shot clock winding down, the freshman swished a 3-pointer, putting Notre Dame back up by four.Notre Dame extended its lead to five on a LaVere layup before Strother hit another 3-pointer to make the score 61-59. The Huskies quickly fouled Duffy, who came into the game as the fourth-best free throw shooter in the nation at 91.6 percent. The junior calmly sank both shots and all but ended Connecticut’s hopes for a comeback.”This whole season I’ve just had a great amount of confidence at the free throw line,” Duffy said. “It was so loud with the fans and everything. We needed two points, and I just stepped up and there were absolutely no nerves whatsoever.”The win puts the Irish at 19-3 and 6-2 in Big East play and drops Connecticut to 13-5 overall and 6-1 in the conference.Notre Dame faces Boston College at the Joyce Center Wednesday with a 7 p.m. tip.