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Villanova pulls off upset

Bill Brink | Monday, January 26, 2009

Villanova’s three 3-pointers in the first four minutes established a trend: the Wildcats would shoot threes until they were stopped.

They kept making them, and their long-range shooting upset No. 13 Notre Dame, 55-48, Saturday at The Pavilion in Villanova, Pa. Villanova shot 37 percent from 3-point range and finished with 10 threes in the game.

“That’s their game,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I actually thought we did a decent job holding them to 55 points.”

Notre Dame dropped to 15-3, 4-2 in the Big East, and has lost two of its last three games. Villanova improved to 11-8 and 3-2 in conference play and beat its first ranked team of the season.

Wildcats senior forward Laura Kurz led the Wildcats with 16 points and was one of four Wildcats to hit four 3-point shots in the game. Senior forward Lisa Karcic and junior guard Maria Getty each had eight points.

Junior guard Ashley Barlow scored 11 points and senior guard Lindsay Schrader had nine, but the Irish offense largely fell flat Saturday. The team shot 32.7 percent from field goal range (and 25 percent in the first half) and made only 63.6 percent of its free throws.

“Free throws are mostly concentration and focus,” McGraw said. “That’s disappointing that we missed eight free throws, especially when it’s such a small margin of victory.”

Villanova, in contrast, made 9-of-11 foul shots.

Schrader shot 3-of-11 from the field and no Irish player made more than three field goals. Freshman forward Erica Solomon did grab a career-high 10 rebounds in addition to her five points.

This game marked Notre Dame’s lowest point total of the season. Its previous low was 62, in wins over LSU and Purdue.

Notre Dame put together a 9-0 run to pull within a point of the Wildcats, who never trailed, and made the score 38-37 Villanova with 8:54 remaining in the game. Villanova senior guard Siobhan O’Connor’s six points in two minutes helped the Wildcats extend their lead to eight, but the Irish started another run, capped by a Lechlitner 3-pointer, to make the score 49-48 with 2:56 remaining.

But Notre Dame didn’t score again. Kurz made a layup and two free throws, the Irish couldn’t convert an offensive rebound into points and Lechlitner turned the ball over down five with 28 seconds left. Getty sank two foul shots to extend the lead to seven and seal the game.

“I always feel like we got a great shot and we missed it,” McGraw said of the offensive rebound. “You have no control over whether the ball goes in or not. The control is the hard work you do to get it. What deflated us was they went down to the other end and got a layup.”

Both Lechlitner and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski got in foul trouble in the second half. Lechlitner was called for her fourth foul with 6:49 left in the game, and Bruszewski played with four fouls since the 9:22 mark.

Notre Dame trailed by two halfway through the first half, but two 3-pointers and a jumper extended Villanova’s lead to 21-11 with 7:38 left in the half. Notre Dame started scoring again in the final five minutes of the half, when junior center Erica Williamson sank two layup and Barlow hit two free throws.

Karcic and Kurz, however, wouldn’t let the Irish close the gap, and a string of fouls against Notre Dame in the final minutes squashed any hopes of a run. Notre Dame trailed 30-20 at the break.

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