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ND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Irish move on to second round with 61-51 win over UCSB

Matt Lozar | Monday, March 21, 2005

FRESNO, Calif. – The game plan for Notre Dame against California-Santa Barbara was simple – stop Big West player of the year Kristen Mann.Mann came into Satur-day’s first round of the NCAA tournament being held to single digits only once in the Gauchos’ previous 29 games. She left the Save Mart Center at Fresno State University with that total at two.Overcoming a difficult day on the offensive end by Jacqueline Batteast, the Irish (27-5) used their 2-3 zone to contain the Gauchos’ (21-9) attack and an unorthodox shot from Megan Duffy in a 61-51 win to advance to tonight’s second-round game against Arizona State.”We did a great job on Mann. We really worked hard in our zone,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think that was the key to the game,” Mann finished with seven points on 2-of-14 shooting. Every time she touched the ball on the perimeter, an Irish defender was in Mann’s face, not allowing her to get an open look. When Mann got the ball down on the post, at least two Irish defenders collapsed on her, taking Mann and the Gauchos out of their offense. “They did a good job of double and triple-teaming me. I struggled a lot. They did a good job of collapsing on me. I couldn’t even distribute it to my teammates,” Mann said. “It wasn’t my night.”Gauchos coach Mark French admitted after the game the coaching staff should have adjusted the team’s strategy after realizing the Irish were focused on taking Mann out his team’s offense.”We probably would have acknowledged it was one of those nights that she wasn’t shooting well and gone away from her sooner,” French said. “We’ve seen her score so well for four years that it’s hard not to ride the horse that got you here.”Duffy’s shot came with the Irish up six after a Breona Gray steal and breakaway layup made the score 52-46. On Notre Dame’s next possession, Duffy dribbled along the left baseline with the shot clock winding down. Guarded tightly by the Gauchos’ Mia Fisher, Duffy drove towards the basket and the normally left-handed shooter threw up a shot with her right hand – nothing but net.”I was just trying to get a shot up before a shot clock violation,” Duffy said. “The coaches don’t really like me doing that, but it worked out so I’m pleased.”Duffy made 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to seal the game for the Irish. Batteast struggled for Notre Dame, finishing with eight points on 4-of-14 shooting after making three of her first four shots. The senior made up for her shooting troubles by grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds.Breona Gray and Courtney LaVere each had 10 points for the Irish who finished with five players scoring at least seven points.Fisher led UCSB with 18 points, the only Gaucho to score in double figures. Starting the second half up 31-28, the Irish took advantage of a Gauchos team that looked tighter and was feeling the pressure of the NCAA tournament more than during the first half. A 16-7 run during the first 10 minutes of the half extended Notre Dame’s lead to 47-35.”We kept our poise [in the second half],” Duffy said. “We had more turnovers in the first half, but we settled down.”In the locker room, we said we have 20 minutes to prove what type of team we are, and we wanted to leave it on the court.”But the Irish made things hard on themselves, scoring three points during the next 7:32 which allowed the Gauchos to get within four at 50-46 before Gray’s layup and Duffy’s shot put the game away.”Duffy saved all of her St. Patrick’s Day karma for that shot she made,” French said. “If she doesn’t make that and we get one, it’s interesting down the stretch.”She’s a great leader, and that’s what great leaders do.”The Irish looked like a team that hadn’t played in 12 days, committing three turnovers on their first four possessions to start the game. The Gauchos opened up a quick 8-4 lead. Switching to a 2-3 zone after opening in man-to-man, the Irish forced the Gauchos into long offensive possessions. On the other end, the Irish used solid entry passes to get easy layups and eventually built a 19-12 lead.The Gauchos responded with a run of their own, an 11-2 spurt highlighted by a deep 3-pointer from Erin O’Bryan that put the Gauchos ahead 23-21.