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ND Women’s Basketball: The Pitts

Bill Brink | Tuesday, March 11, 2008

HARTFORD – A 14-2 Notre Dame lead 10 minutes into the first half was not enough to bury Xenia Stewart and Pittsburgh.

After the Panthers battled back, the guard hit two late 3-pointers, one with 54 seconds remaining in the game, to give Pittsburgh a 5-point lead. It would hold that lead and win, 64-53, at the XL Center Sunday in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

The Panthers advance to play Connecticut tonight. The Irish (23-8) have now lost their last two opening games of the conference tournament. After a 61-51 loss to St. John’s on March 3, Notre Dame has dropped two straight when it had won seven of its previous eight.

“It’s really disappointing to play so well for 29 games,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We’ve really had a great season and to end on a note like this the last two games is really disappointing for us after all the hard work we’ve put in throughout the year.”

Pittsburgh center Marcedes Walker had 18 points and 13 rebounds in the game. Stewart had 13 points and guard Mallorie Winn added 12.

Irish guard Charel Allen led her team with 17 points and eight rebounds, and guard Ashley Barlow added 11. Notre Dame only shot 30.6 percent from the floor in the game.

Despite the Panther’s comeback, Notre Dame kept the end of the game close until the last minute. Barlow made a layup to tie the score at 41 with seven minutes remaining, but Stewart hit the first of her two 3-pointers to give Pittsburgh the lead. Allen gave the Irish a one-point lead with three minutes left, but a triple from Winn and Stewart’s second trey gave Pittsburgh a 56-51 lead.

“We needed to get something going and I didn’t feel like I was contributing like the rest of my team, so I was just taking open looks and taking the shots,” Stewart said.

McGraw said Stewart’s 3-pointers sank her team for good.

McGraw acknowledged that Stewart’s play late in the second half changed the eventual outcome.

“I thought Xenia Stewart was the difference in the game,” McGraw said. “She hit those two 3s and I thought that was the game.”

Notre Dame rendered Pittsburgh ineffective after the opening tip. Walker’s layup with 17:38 left in the first half would be Pittsburgh’s last basket until Stewart hit a jumper with 10:04 left, a span of 7:34. In that time, the Irish scored 14 points and squashed the Panther offense. They swatted passes and blocked shots, clogged lanes to the basket and forced poor shot selection.

“I started to get a flashback of the West Virginia game, because when we played West Virginia we had two points and they had about twelve like Notre Dame today, and we lost that game by a lot,” Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato said of Notre Dame’s early lead.

Just as the Irish had the opportunity to bury Pittsburgh, they swapped places with their opponents. It was now their turn to turn the ball over, throw passes out of bounds and suffer through offensive stagnation.

As Notre Dame’s transformation took place, Pittsburgh’s offense revived itself. Walker completed two back-to-back 3-point plays, and a Winn 3-pointer and a jump shot from guard Taneisha Harrison tied the game at 17 with 4:36 remaining.

“We were too laid back. We should have kept being aggressive but we were just relaxed and laid back,” Allen said. “We should have been aggressive from the start. When you are up 14-2 you want to keep shoving it down their throat but we didn’t do that.”

McGraw said Notre Dame’s offense, which didn’t click even when they had the chance early, never got off the ground.

“Overall, offensively we didn’t really play well. I don’t think we moved the ball well,” McGraw said. “I thought when we to the zone we stood around a lot never really got going.”


uAllen was named first team all-Big East, and Barlow and junior guard Lindsay Schrader were honorable mentions. Guard Brittany Mallory and forward Devereaux Peters were named to the all-Big East freshman team.