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ND Women’s Basketball: Last-second shot doesn’t fall and Irish hold on vs. DePaul

Bill Brink | Monday, February 9, 2009

On a day when survival reigned supreme, Notre Dame survived a tough challenge from DePaul. A last-minute 3-point attempt clanged off the rim, and No. 19 Notre Dame held on to beat No. 25 DePaul 62-59 Sunday in the Joyce Center. The game was a “Pink Zone,” a fundraiser for breast cancer research, and many survivors were in attendance and were honored at halftime.Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski had 14 points and 12 rebounds, her first career double-double. Junior guard Ashley Barlow had 19 points, tying her season high. “I was just attacking,” Barlow said. “In the last couple games I feel like I was just standing there not helping out in the offensive end.”DePaul senior forward Natasha Williams had 20 points and 10 rebounds and junior guard China Threatt added 11 points. The win moves Notre Dame to 17-5 and 6-4 in conference play. DePaul drops to 18-6 and 6-4 in the Big East. The last time Notre Dame faced DePaul, on Jan. 6 in Chicago, the Irish dismantled the Blue Demons 86-62. “We knew coming into this game that Notre Dame was going to see a different team than they saw at our gym,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “My message to the team after the game was that I think this team has a chance to be very special this year.”The Irish had lost four of their last six games before Sunday’s contest. McGraw said the team’s practices during that stretch, however, were some of the best of the season.”I’ve seen resilience,” she said. “I’ve seen an amazing perseverance.”The game stayed close for the entire second half, with neither team getting ahead by more than four points. With 3:33 left in the game, junior guard Melissa Lechlitner stole the ball, ran the length of the floor and made a pull-up jump shot to give Notre Dame a 54-53. Another Lechlitner jumper two minutes later tied the score at 56.Bruszewski hit a baseline jumper with 50 seconds left and Lechlitner made the front end of a one-and-one to give Notre Dame a three-point lead.McGraw called Lechlitner’s pull-up jump shot and Bruszewski’s baseline jumper the plays of the game. Lechlitner said McGraw told the team to look for good shots.”During a timeout, coach said don’t settle for the jumpers, keep attacking, going towards the basket,” said Lechlitner, who finished with 13 points, three assists and three steals. Threatt ran the length of the floor almost uncontested and made a layup to bring DePaul within two with three seconds left. After Bruszewski made one free throw, Threatt had a good look at a 3-pointer to tie as time expired, and the shot came dangerously close to going in.”I was holding my breath,” McGraw said. “That was a pretty open shot from quite a ways out. She’d hit a few earlier. I was saying some prayers there.”Barlow played the majority of the game on a sore ankle that she rolled in the first half. She left the game for a while but returned, limping at times. “It was really painful right when it happened, but once I got back into the flow of the game it was okay,” Barlow said.

Notes:-The Pink Zone fundraiser raised more than $38,000 for breast cancer research.”It seemed like a special day when we went out,” said McGraw, whose mother, Anne O’Brien, is a breast cancer survivor. “When I saw that pink in the arena, I took a deep breath and it really made me appreciate what those women had gone through. We’re worried about making a shot or turning the ball over and they’re surviving cancer.”The referees used pink whistles, fans had pink shirts and the players had pink shoelaces and uniforms. The Irish players even had streaks of pink in their hair; Bruszewski’s was more blatant than the rest.”It was the hair. Got a new attitude going,” Bruszewski said of her performance. “I’m a little different, a little more punk, so I just wanted to add it in.”

-Notre Dame is now 5-1 against ranked opponents this season.