Feb. 22, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne) scored 17 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, powering Notre Dame to a 70-58 BIG EAST Conference win at West Virginia on Wednesday night at WVU Coliseum. With the victory, the Irish (15-10, 6-8) virtually assure themselves of a spot in the upcoming BIG EAST Championship, needing one Seton Hall loss in the Pirates' final three games, to lock up a berth. In addition, Notre Dame is guaranteed to finish with a winning record for the 14th consecutive season and 18th time in the 19-year Muffet McGraw era.
Duffy missed a good portion of the first half with a rare bout of foul trouble (she has committed only 42 fouls all season through Wednesday's game), but when she returned to the court, she was sensational, knocking down 5-of-7 shots, including 4-of-6 three-pointers in the final 20 minutes. Sophomore guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) came off the bench to score 12 points, playing in front of a hearty band of supporters who made the hour-long drive south from her hometown. Junior forward Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./St. Paul) also provided strong support in a reserve role with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting.
Chakhia Cole led three West Virginia players in double figures with 16 points. Olayinka Sanni and LaQuita Owens each tossed in 12 points for the Mountaineers, who dropped their sixth consecutive game and seventh in the past eight outings. WVU (12-13, 4-10) currently holds a precarious half-game lead over Georgetown and Seton Hall in the quest for the 12th and final BIG EAST Championship berth (SHU plays at Villanova Thursday night).
The difference for Notre Dame in Wednesday's contest was its second-half performance. As a team, the Irish shot 62.1 percent from the floor (18-of-29) in the final stanza and posted their highest scoring half of the season with 46 points. In addition, Notre Dame's defense rose up and held West Virginia to one field goal over an eight-minute stretch late in the period, going on a 15-5 run during that same span to pull away for the victory.
The Irish found themselves trailing for a large portion of the first half, falling behind by as many as nine points when WVU's Britney Davis-White canned two free throws to give her team a 19-10 lead with nine minutes left in the period. However, Notre Dame responded with a 10-0 run of its own, capped by a three-pointers from junior guard Breona Gray at the 5:20 mark. The teams traded baskets before Cole scored six of the Mountaineers' last seven points and helped give West Virginia a 28-24 halftime lead.
That margin lasted all of 64 seconds in the second half, as senior forward Courtney LaVere (Ventura, Calif./Buena HS) hit a transition layup and Duffy followed with the opening salvo in her three-point barrage to put Notre Dame in front, 29-28. From there, the lead changed hands three times and the game was tied twice, with WVU going ahead for the final time when Sarah Bucar made a layup and was fouled by Gray with 13:22 left. Bucar missed her foul shot, and Allen answered four seconds later with a three-pointer and the Irish never trailed again.
Still, matters appeared unresolved at the midway point of the second half, when Sanni knocked down a spinning layup to pull her team within 50-48. Following an Irish timeout, Erwin hit a layup of her own to ignite the game-changing 15-5 run that put the visitors in command. Duffy had five points and sophomore guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne HS) added four points in the spurt, which covered just over five minutes and kept West Virginia from getting any closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
Notre Dame heads back out on the road Saturday when it pays a visit to Cincinnati for a 2 p.m. (ET) game that will be broadcast live as part of the BIG EAST Game of the Week package on several regional sports networks. Those outlets scheduled to carry the game include: WHME-TV 46 (South Bend), Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Comcast Local (Detroit), Madison Square Garden Network, Fox College Sports - Atlantic, Catch-47 Sports (Tampa) and Ohio News Network. In addition, Cox Sports Television (available in Louisiana, Florida and Texas) will air the game on a tape-delayed basis Sunday at noon (ET).
POST GAME NOTES: ... Notre Dame broke out its green road jerseys for Wednesday's game, the first time the Irish have sported the greens since March 27, 2004, in a 55-49 loss to #5/7 Penn State in the NCAA Sweet 16 at Hartford, Conn. ... it's the first time Notre Dame has won in the green uniforms since March 17, 2001, when the Irish trounced Alcorn State, 98-49 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at the Joyce Center (kick-starting their run to the national championship) ... it marked the first time Notre Dame wore its green togs in regular season play since Dec. 8, 1999, when the Irish dropped a 71-61 decision at #18/16 Purdue after winning its two prior games in the greens (99-86 vs. #9/12 North Carolina and 85-68 vs. Liberty in the Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational at Richmond, Va.) ... Notre Dame is 6-4 all-time in its green uniforms (3-1 regular season, 3-3 postseason) ... in the 29-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball, the Irish now have had 25 winning seasons, one at exactly .500, and just three losing campaigns ... Notre Dame improves to 8-5 away from home this season (6-5 road, 2-0 neutral) ... the Irish posted their first 70-point game since Jan. 17 vs. #10 DePaul (78-75 ND win) and second of the BIG EAST Conference season ... Notre Dame's 46-point second half was one better than its previous top scoring half of the year (45 in the first half vs. Arkansas State on Dec. 17 at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas) ... Wednesday marked the fifth time the Irish have shot 50 percent or better in a game this year, and first since a season-best .560 effort in a 66-63 loss at St. John's on Jan. 4 ... Notre Dame knocked down a season-high seven three-pointers, one more than its totals against Indiana (Nov. 23) and Tennessee (Dec. 31) ... the Irish have sharpened their shooting eye from beyond the arc in the past two games, hitting half their three-point attempts (11-of-22) ... Notre Dame's 12 steals tie for the second-highest mark of the season, trailing only a 14-steal night at Syracuse on Jan. 31 ... this marks the sixth time in seven games the Irish have had 15 turnovers or less in a game (the only blemish was a 16-turnover night vs. #8/6 Connecticut last Sunday) ... Notre Dame had at least three double-figure scorers for the seventh consecutive game and 19th time in 25 games this season (13-6 record) ... the Irish have won three games this season after trailing at halftime, adding the West Virginia victory to conquests of Marquette (67-65, OT) and Syracuse (67-55) ... Notre Dame improves to 9-0 this season when holding its opponent under 60 points ... the Irish are 14-1 all-time against West Virginia (6-1 in Morgantown) and have scored 70+ points in 12 of 15 meetings with the Mountaineers; in addition, Notre Dame has held WVU under 60 points eight times ... senior All-America guard Megan Duffy posted her seventh 20-point game of the year and 21st double-digit scoring game in 25 chances, including her current streak of 10 straight double-figure outings ... Duffy's 22 points give her 1,211 career markers, pushing her up two spots on the Irish all-time scoring list past Krissi Davis (1,194 points from 1987-91) and Heidi Bunek (1,202 points from 1985-89) ... Duffy's five three-pointers were the most by an Irish player in almost exactly two years (Feb. 21, 2004), when Jeneka Joyce canned five treys in a 72-68 win at Pittsburgh ... sophomore guard Charel Allen has scored in double digits in five consecutive games and six of the past seven ... junior forward Crystal Erwin collected her fifth double-digit scoring game of the year and first since a similar 10-point night vs. #10 DePaul on Jan. 17.