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ROTC BASKETBALL: Air Force rebounds from rocky first half for win

Eric Retter | Monday, February 7, 2005

In a defensive contest, free throws are always important.

However, when they make up more than half of a team’s points, every trip to the line is downright critical.

The Irish Air Force men’s A-team took full advantage of its opportunities at the charity stripe in the championship of the 19th Annual Notre Dame Flying Irish Invitational on Sunday.

The Air Force team went 16-of-27 from the free throw line en route to a hard-fought 31-23 victory over the Virginia Tech Orange.

Freshman Anthony Cros-ser played like a veteran, leading the Irish at the line.

Crosser went 5-of-6 and finished the game with seven points.

The Irish struggled offensively for most of the first half, making only four field goals and shooting 4-for-9 from the free throw line, despite managing to enter halftime with a 14-12 lead.

However, in a matchup including a scoring drought lasting longer than seven minutes, defense was the name of the game.

Neither team was able to mount much offense during the middle of the first half, when a 6-3 Virginia Tech lead stood for 7:05 before Irish senior Matt Crosser, who finished with seven points, converted on two free throws to cut the lead to one.

The second half proved to be a defensive battle as well, as the two teams combined to make only four field goals.

Virginia Tech’s defense shut the Irish down from the field, holding senior captain Tim Kogge, the 3-point champ, to no field goals all game.

“Their goal was to shut me down outside, and so we had to try to pound it down low,” Kogge said.

Because of the lackluster shooting, fouls proved costly for Virginia Tech, as the Irish won the game at the line, making 12-of-17 free throws in the second half and slowly building their way up to an 11-point lead with 1:47 to go.

“We did a great job getting boards and getting to the line,” Kogge said.

As the game wound down, Virginia Tech awoke from its game long shooting slump.

However, it was too little, too late, and the Irish held on for an eight-point victory.

Defenses also dominated in the women’s final, as the Marquette Army women’s team fell to the South Dakota State Air Force Lady Jackrabbits by a score of 28-23.

The Jackrabbits took an early lead 6-2 with back to back 3-pointers from Elizabeth Harding.

Marquette was unable to erase that initial deficit until 59 seconds remained in the half, when tournament MVP Tiffany Bilderback tied the game on a breakaway layup.

In the second half, Marquette looked poised to capture the title, as Stephanie Thompson scored seven of her 10 points during a 10-4 Lady Eagles run that gave them a 21-15 advantage with under 10 minutes to play.

However, as Thompson cooled off and Bilderback couldn’t create much offense, going 1-for-2 from the field in the second half, the game momentum slowly began to turn.

Nita Har-stead took over the game for the Jackrabbits, scoring seven points of her own to lead an 11-2 South Dakota State run to close out the last 7:20 of the game, including scores on two consecutive trips up the floor to give them the lead with under a minute to play.

After, the game, the team’s coach, Major Chris Trotter, was enthused about the victory.

Trotter said that this year’s win was especially heartening in light of the last two year’s outcomes.

“The last two years, we didn’t even make it out of the brackets,” he said.

“I feel great, especially for the girls.”

Harding was positive about her team’s experience in the tournament.

“It was a fun event, and everyone played hard,” she said.