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Women’s Basketball: Irish come back to top Bowling Green in OT

Jay Fitzpatrick | Tuesday, November 14, 2006

With half of overtime already gone, freshman guard Ashley Barlow grabbed an offensive rebound for the Irish and drove to the basket for an 80-79 lead over Bowling Green – one Notre Dame would not relinquish.

Barlow continued to dominate in overtime, nabbing two more of her 10 rebounds and icing the victory with 3.8 seconds left after hitting a pair of free throws to stretch Monday’s final score to 85-81.

“I don’t think we were ever down on ourselves – I think we just knew we needed to play defense and get on the offensive side of things, especially in the second half we picked up,” Barlow said. “As long as we had each other we knew we could come out with a victory.”

In the first half, everything fell the Falcons’ way. Bowling Green was able to out-rebound the Irish 16-13 in the first 20 minutes as well as sink five 3-pointers over Notre Dame’s zone defense while holding the Irish to only 2-of-8 from beyond the arch. This combination of potent offense and stingy defense gave the Falcons a 13-point lead late in the first.

“I actually thought we were going to be better defensively this year. I was disappointed at the three-point percentage,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “Some of them were defensive mistakes and some of them were great offense.”

But the Irish refused to stay down. Senior captain Tulyah Gaines – who set a personal best with her 23 points in the win – led her team on offense for most of the game, spending just two minutes on the bench.

“My team has my back as well. When I see an opening I’m just going to go for it,” Gaines said. “If they step up, I’m going to pass the ball, but they didn’t this time so I had the open shot.”

But despite Gaines’ best efforts, she could not seal the victory at the free throw line, missing a foul shot with only seven seconds to play to keep the Notre Dame lead narrow at 78-75.

“Its frustrating, but you have to get back in the game,” Gaines said. “The game wasn’t over so you have to let that go.”

Bowling Green center Kate Achter took the inbounds down the floor and dished the ball to center Liz Honegger, who nailed the 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the ball into overtime.

“That might be one of the best offensive teams we’ve seen in a long time,” McGraw said. “They’re smart and experienced veteran players and when they hit that three at the end of regulation, you knew they would have a good play because they’re a well-coached team.”

Despite Honegger’s heroics, the Irish still had momentum on their side due to their play in the closing minutes of the second half.

Notre Dame was able to get the lead going into Gaines’ missed free throw attempt thanks to its defense. Throughout the second half comeback, the Irish were in a full court press, hoping to force a Falcons mistake.

That happened with under a minute to play in regulation. Gaines saw an opportunity and took it, winning the ball from Honegger. Guard Charel Allen made the turnover count 22 seconds later with a mid-range jumper.

“That key steal by Tulyah – she wasn’t even guarding [Honegger] but she saw what was happening. She used her speed to track down the loose ball,” McGraw said. “I was really pleased that we were able to at least take some time off the back court, even if we didn’t get a steal it really forced them to rush their offense a little bit.”

Overall, McGraw said she was pleased with her team’s performance down the stretch against Bowling Green.

“They had so many tough matchups for us, and the fact is that we gave up a lot of points but we were able to control the offense,” she said. “I thought it was great to look out there and see all those young players and know that we’re getting a lot of experience this early in the season.”