ND Women’s Basketball:Irish bout out of 2005 NCAA tournament in the second round
Matt Lozar | Tuesday, March 22, 2005
FRESNO, Calif. – A promising season came to an end Monday night when Notre Dame’s strength became a liability.
After building a 27-14 first-half lead, the Irish (27-6) couldn’t stop Arizona State (24-9), losing 70-61 in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the Save Mart Center at Fresno State University.
The Irish do not advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002.
“They jumped out to a quick [7-0] start, but we settled in,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought we lost the game at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half.
“During that stretch, we couldn’t do anything right.”
That stretch of 13 minutes 30 seconds saw Arizona State outscore Notre Dame 27-5 and build a 41-32 advantage while the Irish committed 12 turnovers.
Earlier in the game, Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone stifled the Arizona State offense – forcing turnovers and bad shots. But the Sun Devils made adjustments to get quick baskets on fast breaks, lay-ups off passes from the high post and open looks from behind the 3-point arc.
Once the 3-pointers started falling – the Sun Devils finished 5-of-13 after starting 1-of-8 – the tide turned quickly.
“We knew that we have great shooters. That was the key to the game,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “Our top shooters were aggressive.”
Notre Dame’s Jacqueline Batteast, Big East Player-of-the-Year, ended her collegiate career with 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting and eight rebounds.
Seeing the season hanging in the balance, Megan Duffy put the Irish on her back, keeping them in the game when nothing else was working offensively. The junior scored 20 of her 24 points in the second half – draining 3-pointers, driving to the basket and getting to the foul line where she made 9-of-10 overall.
But each time the Irish tried to make a run – they got as close as four points – the Sun Devils had an answer.
Arizona State made the defensive stops the Irish couldn’t, and the reason McGraw cited for defensive futility frustrated her.
“We looked tired mentally,” she said. “I don’t know what that was. You have to dig down and play harder. That’s what was so disappointing.”
The win sends Arizona State to its first Sweet 16 since 1983. Prior to this year’s NCAA tournament, the Sun Devils had never won two games in the same NCAA tournament. The Sun Devils are hosting the regionals this weekend and await the winner of tonight’s game between No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 8 George Washington.
“It was a hard fought battle,” Thorne said. “I’m really pleased and proud of my team for its toughness and sticking with things.
“We’re happy to be going home.”
The Sun Devils came out quickly, scoring on three of their first four possessions, and jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
Then the Irish defense buckled down. Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone kept the Sun Devils frustrated as the Irish went on a 27-7 run during the next 13:58 to build a 13-point lead with 3:47 remaining in the half. Batteast led the Irish with 10 points during that stretch, but she continued her NCAA tournament struggles and looked frustrated while never getting into a good offensive flow.
Notre Dame looked poised to take a double-digit advantage into the locker room, but Arizona State closed the half on a 9-1 run. Betsy Boardman drilled a 3-pointer at the end of the half – the first Arizona State 3-pointer since its opening basket – sending the Sun Devils into the locker room down 28-23 and with all the momentum they would need for a second-half run to the Sweet 16.
u Freshman Charel Allen injured her left knee when she was fouled on a breakaway with 14:23 remaining in the second half. Allen had to be helped off the court.
McGraw said after the game that Allen tore her anterior cruciate ligament.
Allen, named to the Big East all-freshman team on March 4, came into Monday night’s game averaging 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.