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ND Women’s Basketball: Demonized

Bill Brink | Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When a team on the rise meets a team gasping for air, sometimes the desire to breathe can prevail over normal respiration.

DePaul, which lost three of its last five games, held off Notre Dame for the entire second half and survived two late scoring chances to win 81-80 Tuesday at the Joyce Center, reviving the Blue Demons and adding to Notre Dame’s troubles. The pulse-quickening moments near the end of the second half kept the half-full Joyce Center louder than it’s been all season.

The game should have been out of hand earlier than it was, but Allie Quigley gift-wrapped the Irish one more chance.

After Irish guard Brittany Mallory hit two free throws to bring the Irish within 1 point with four seconds remaining, all the Blue Demon guard had to do was hold the ball while either time expired or Notre Dame fouled her. But Quigley tried to escape and lost the ball out of bounds, giving the Irish a chance to inbound on their end of the court.

“I don’t know why I’m thinking [of] running away from people. I should have just stayed strong with the ball,” said Quigley, who finished with 16 points and seven assists. “I wanted to make it a little more interesting.”

Irish guard Ashley Barlow sent the inbounds pass to guard Tulyah Gaines, who handed the ball off to guard Charel Allen. Allen darted left to find a shot, but stumbled, and Blue Demon guard Holly Medley stole the ball as time expired. DePaul has now beaten Notre Dame three games in a row.

“We were trying to set a screen for Charel,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “The ball was going to come in to Tulyah, and Lindsay [Schrader] was going to screen for Charel, but it obviously never got to that point. Tulyah had a little trouble getting off the screen.

“That’s a play we run all the time.”

Barlow scored a career-high 23 points and shot 8-of-12 from the floor. She also grabbed seven rebounds.

DePaul shot 72 percent from the field in the first half and led 45-43 at the break. A pair of 3-point plays and a 3-pointer by guard Missy Mitidiero sent the Blue Demons on a nine-point run, despite their committing six fouls in the opening four minutes of the second half.

But Irish center Erica Williamson, who tied a career high with 16 points, sank two free throws, and Barlow dropped two quick lay-ups and three foul shots to bring Notre Dame within a point with 9:33 remaining in the game.

DePaul found itself in foul trouble near the end of the game. Forwards Caprice Smith and Felicia Chester fouled out, and the Irish began shooting the double bonus with 7:39 left in the game. Notre Dame, however, shot only 71.4 percent from the line.

“We missed 10 free throws. That’s the difference in the game right there,” McGraw said.

After Blue Demon forward Natasha Williams hit a free throw that made the score 71-67, Allen drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to bring the Irish within 1.

But Notre Dame could not close the gap. Quigley converted four free throws in the final three minutes.

Down 79-77 with 23 seconds remaining, Williams fouled Allen, sending the Irish senior to the line with a chance to tie the game. Allen made only one of two and forced Notre Dame to foul Quigley again.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno was thrilled with what the win meant to his team, which has been struggling since a Jan. 2 loss to No. 3 Tennessee.

“I think to come in to a place like the Joyce Center and steal one, I think it’s done an unbelievable amount for our collective team psyches,” Bruno said.

McGraw expressed her disappointment in Notre Dame’s defense and said she would retool it from the ground up.

“I think we have to play zone. We obviously can’t play people man-to-man,” McGraw said. “We must be a zone team.”

Williamson said that the defensive improvement needed to come on both an individual and team level.

“I think we need to have pride in our defense,” she said. “I don’t think we have enough energy out there, and that’s going to start at practice tomorrow.

“At some point, we have to just say, ‘you know what, that’s enough. I’m going to do it.’ and we have to do it as a team.”

The Blue Demons took advantage of the man defense, moving the ball well and creating outside shots for Quigley, Mitidiero and guard Deirdre Naughton, who had 20 points and eight rebounds.

“Tonight was the first time we even got close to the end of the shot clock,” Naughton said. “I think we had very good ball movement.”

Barlow hit two 3-pointers in quick succession to help the Irish grab a 17-9 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. But Notre Dame relinquished the pressure and allowed DePaul back into the game.

“We got off to a great start, and then we gave them confidence,” McGraw said. “… And suddenly they get on a roll, and now a team that’s reeling from a couple losses in a row, suddenly they have confidence.”