Halftime: Notre Dame 31, California 31

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We've got a good one on our hands tonight.

The Notre Dame women's basketball team returned to the Purcell Pavilion court on Tuesday for a second round NCAA tournament contest against #8 seed California.

After leading the Fighting Irish with 15 points in Sunday's win against Liberty, Kayla McBride picked up where she left off, draining her first two jump shots to excite the crowd early.

Despite playing against a top-seeded Notre Dame squad on its home floor, from the opening tip-off, Cal was not intimidated. The Golden Bears jumped out to a 9-8 lead at the first media timeout, never trailed by more than six and hung with the Irish throughout the first half. Cal even took the lead with under a minute to play, before Notre Dame tied it after a quick timeout.

The half was a tale of two different stat lines. Cal made four shots behind the arc, while Notre Dame took advantage of 12 free throws, knocking down 11 of those shots. Unfortunately for the Irish, the free throw line was the only place the shots were falling. They were 0-for-6 from long range, and just 34.5% from the field.

Whether or not Notre Dame advances to Raleigh, tonight marks the end of a great era at the Purcell Pavilion for four Irish seniors who are playing in their final game in front of the home fans - Brittany Mallory, Devereaux Peters, Natalie Novosel and Fraderica Miller.

Offensively, it was Novosel who led Notre Dame with 17 points. Her huge and-1 layup with just over four minutes left in the half absolutely ignited the crowd and gave the Irish their largest lead (six) of the game so far.

From the looks of it, this one's going to come down to the wire. Whether or not that's a good thing, we'll find out in twenty minutes.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

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