Jan. 26, 2005
By TOM COYNE
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - St. John's played Notre Dame tougher than ever. It still wasn't enough.
Crystal Erwin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Megan Duffy added 14 points and 10 assists, leading the sixth-ranked Irish to a 72-65 victory over St. John's on Wednesday night. The Irish improved to 15-0 all time against St. John's (14-4, 3-4), but the seven-point margin of defeat was the closest ever for the Red Storm. Twice before they had lost by 13.
"We've made such progress, but we really want to win a game like this," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "When you lose a game like this it's tough to say, 'You gave a great effort' because everyone is disappointed."
Jacqueline Batteast added 10 points and 10 rebounds, giving the Irish (17-3, 5-2 Big East) three players with double-doubles for the first time since they accomplished the feat against Michigan State in 1995.
Kia Wright led St. John's with 23 points, including 17 in the first half, and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
"She was unstoppable in the first half," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We didn't have anyone who could guard her."
Tara Walker had 16 points for St. John's and Greeba Barlow added 12.
The double-doubles were firsts for Erwin and Duffy, while Batteast moved alone into second place on Notre Dame's career list with 37, including five this season. Batteast also had four blocked shots. Teresa Borton added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Irish started the game with little intensity - just as they had before beating then-No. 6 Rutgers on Sunday - falling behind by eight points and trailing 35-31 at halftime.
"I think we came out flat today. I don't know why," McGraw said. "Coming off a good win took a lot of our energy. We all knew we should have won this game, and thought (St. John's) knew it too. The problem was they didn't."
The Irish came out more aggressive in the second half, using a 19-4 run early in the second half to take control.
Duffy started the run with a 3-pointer, but the key was improved defense. The Irish held St. John's to 2-of-19 shooting during the stretch, forcing one shot clock violation and four turnovers.
The Irish outplayed St. John's inside in the second half, outscoring the Red Storm 22-14 and winning the rebounding battle 26-21.
"We focus as a team on rebounding and that's what I focus on," Erwin said. "That's what the team needs in order to win."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 15-0 all-time against St. John's, including a 7-0 record at the Joyce Center ... the current Irish 15-game winning streak vs. the Red Storm is the longest active run against a BIG EAST opponent and second-longest current string for Notre Dame vs. a single foe (18 against Valparaiso) ... the Irish are 35-2 (.946) against New York schools, including an 18-0 mark at the Joyce Center ... Notre Dame matched its season high with 49 rebounds (also vs. Nebraska on Nov. 14) ... the Irish dished out at least 20 assists for the sixth time this season ... Notre Dame had four players score in double figures for the seventh time in 2004-05, and the Irish are 10-1 this year when they have at least three double-digit scorers ... Notre Dame narrowly missed shooting 45 percent from the field for the fourth consecutive game, winding up at .444 (28-for-63) ... the Irish had three players register double-doubles in the same game for the first time since Dec. 21, 1995 at Michigan State, when Beth Morgan (28p, 11r), Katryna Gaither (27p, 14r) and Carey Poor (10p, 10r) all doubled up in an 87-83 overtime loss to the Spartans ... the Notre Dame bench outscored its St. John's counterparts, 14-9, giving the Irish a perfect 12-0 record this year when they hold the advantage in bench points ... sophomore forward Crystal Erwin notched her first career double-double, highlighted by a career-best 10 rebounds which were one more than her previous high that she set three days earlier against Rutgers ... junior guard Megan Duffy also logged her first career double-double and the first points-assists double-double by a Notre Dame player since Jan. 15, 2001, when Niele Ivey mirrored Duffy's numbers (14p, 10a) in a 92-76 win over Connecticut ... Duffy posted her second consecutive double-figure assist game, becoming the first Irish player to pull off that feat since Nov. 17 & 20, 2000, when Ivey had 10 handouts at Valparaiso and 11 vs. Arizona ... Duffy now has notched six-or-more assists in seven consecutive games, averaging 7.9 assists per game during that stretch ... senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast collected her fifth double-double of the season and 37th of her career, giving her sole possession of second place on the Irish all-time double-doubles list (one more than Ruth Riley's 36 from 1997-2001); ironically, Riley was in attendance Wednesday night as a color analyst on Comcast Local's television broadcast ... freshman guard Charel Allen quietly compiled her sixth consecutive game of eight points or more, including five games with exactly eight points.