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ND Women’s Basketball: Clipping the Cardinals’ wings

Joe Meixell | Thursday, February 8, 2007

A defensive shift at halftime allowed Notre Dame to shut down No. 17 Louisville’s offense and erase a seven-point halftime deficit on its way to a 64-55 win at the Joyce Center Wednesday.

The win was the second time this season the Irish defeated a ranked opponent, the first coming against then-No. 10 Purdue Dec. 6 at the Joyce Center.

Louisville shot over the Irish zone early in the game, helping them grab the early lead. Forward Angel McCoughtry led the Cardinals’ 3-point offense, sinking all five of her shots from beyond the arc. McCoughtry took over the game in the first half, scoring 19 points, including 11 straight for the Cardinals.

Notre Dame switched to a box-and-one defense at the break and quelled Louisville’s offense.

“I was absolutely thrilled with the defense in the second half,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought Breona [Gray] really shut [McCoughtry] down in the second half when we went to the box-and-one. I thought that was a big key to the win.”

Louisville coach Tom Collen felt poor play, rather than the defensive adjustment, caused his team’s second-half meltdown.

“Obviously it was a tale of two halves,” he said. “In the second half they went to a junk defense, they played the box-and-one, and put a chaser on [McCoughtry]. It didn’t really bother us, to be honest with you. We were still scoring on it.”

The Irish trailed by as many as 12 points with 2:25 to go in the first half, but battled back before halftime. Freshman Ashley Barlow hit a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining in the half to pull the Irish within seven.

“Barlow really made a difference in the game and that’s why we started her in the second half,” McGraw said.

Barlow finished with 15 points – her second consecutive double-figure performance – and six rebounds.

Notre Dame used second-half scoring runs of 11 and 16 points to seal the game. The first began with 14:13 left and put the Irish ahead by one. The second run clinched the win for the Irish, who scored every point over an eight-minute span.

“We had that run up against us against West Virginia, and we didn’t like it much so we thought we’d try it ourselves,” McGraw said jokingly.

Guard Charel Allen scored five of her 21 points during the second run. McGraw credited part of Allen’s shooting to her teammates’ screens, particularly those by forward Crystal Erwin and center Erica Williamson.

“My teammates were setting screens for me, and I’m going to take the shot when I’m open,” she said. “It just felt good, and most of the time it left my hand, so I continued to shoot.”

The second scoring run energized the Joyce Center crowd.

“I think the crowd felt it, and when we got close the crowd really helped us,” she said. “That really spurred us on.”

The Irish, who have struggled on the boards, out-rebounded Louisville 34-29 and held the Cardinals to 19 rebounds under their season average.

McGraw attributed the vast improvement in the second half not only to the defensive change but to individual performances as well.

“Charel, as always, kept us in the game with her offense. Bre did it with her defense,” McGraw said. “We had our points, we rebounded well, we did everything we needed to do defensively down the stretch.”