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Women’s Basketball: ND Falls In Overtime

Eric Retter | Monday, January 30, 2006

If head coach Muffet McGraw’s reaction was any indication, Saturday’s loss to South Florida may prove to be the model of how Notre Dame’s season has gone: pre-game optimism quieted by major struggles, topped by a valiant late-game effort that just wasn’t quite enough.

“We just frickin’ beat ourselves,” said McGraw, who was visibly shaken after the game. “It’s frustrating.”

The Irish, who came into the game eager to bounce back from a 69-43 loss at Rutgers on Tuesday, fell behind quickly, allowing guard Shantia Grace to make two 3-pointers and score seven early points and give the Bulls a 12-3 lead just 3:12 into the game.

“Every three we gave up was because somebody made a mistake, so that’s eight mistakes,” said McGraw, referring to South Florida’s game total from three-point range.

Notre Dame eventually cut the lead back to 20-18 with 8:51 to go in the first half, but then suffered through one of the season’s longest field goal-less streaks, going more than 13 minutes without a point from the floor.

“We just don’t have the offensive power that we need.” McGraw said. “I think we have people who are capable of it, but they’re just not doing it.”

In part because of the lengthy cold streak, Notre Dame fell behind by as much as 15 and went into halftime trailing, 34-21.

“We dig ourselves a big hole in every game,” she said. “I don’t think you can put yourself in that kind of a hole and then work that hard to come back.”

In the second half, Notre Dame was able to finally end the field-goal drought with a jumper from Megan Duffy 4:04 into the half.

The senior point guard, who finished with a game-high 25 points, helped engineer yet another major comeback as the Irish erased a 15-point deficit and took a 47-46 lead with 6:23 left to play.

“I think we settled down a little bit in the offense, and I tried to be a little more aggressive in the second half than I was in the first half,” Duffy said.

McGraw, however, was a bit more frustrated with the offense.

“Now, I almost feel like we got to play defense to score in the 40s, because we can’t score,” she said. “There’s so much pressure on Megan [Duffy] to do it all. She’s handling it very well, but we need those experienced players to help her.”

McGraw was especially critical of her inside players, who have been struggling more than expected this season.

“We thought that [senior forward] Courtney [Lavere] would be a scorer for us, and it’s just been really disappointing the way our posts have been playing,” McGraw said. “We just cannot score.”

After a pair of Duffy free throws gave the Irish a 58-55 lead with 24 seconds left to play, the team looked poised to pull off yet another come-from-behind victory.

However, a 3-pointer with two seconds left by forward Ezria Parsons, who had made only one other three-pointer all season, sent the game into overtime.

“All we had to do was not let them hit a three. It didn’t matter if that was the first three of her career or what,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame started the extra period well, with field goals by freshman forward Lindsay Schrader, who finished with 10 points, and sophomore forward Charel Allen giving the Irish early leads at 60-58 and 62-60, respectively. But South Florida forward Jessica Dickson, who finished with 17 points, proved why she is an All-American candidate and the nation’s leading scorer. She scored three of the Bulls’ seven overtime points in leading them to the victory.

“I was not confident going into overtime, because we had the game won,” she said. “We had the game won in regulation.”

After the game, McGraw’s tone seemed to indicate that drastic changes would be coming very soon.

“The upperclassmen just put a tremendous burden on Megan [Duffy] to do it all,” McGraw said. “You got to have somebody step up and have a big game, and that’s what Lindsay [Schrader] is trying to do, and I’m really pleased with her.”

When pressed, McGraw was even more clear of her intentions for the immediate future.

“I can change who I play, I think that’s the answer,” she said. “I think we just got to go with our youth, and start preparing for the future.”