March 19, 2005
By JANIE McCAULEY
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Notre Dame has long preferred the physical, scrappy style of basketball necessary to survive in the BIG EAST Conference, and UC Santa Barbara played right along.
Megan Duffy scored 18 points with seven free throws in the final minute and the fourth-seeded Fighting Irish bounced back from a semifinal loss to Connecticut in their conference tournament by beating the feisty Gauchos 61-51 in the first round of the Tempe Regional on Saturday.
In a matchup of two NCAA tournament-tested programs, Notre Dame used a big second half to advance to the second round Monday night against No. 5 Arizona State, an 87-65 winner over Eastern Kentucky earlier Saturday.
Mia Fisher scored 18 points for No. 13 seed UCSB (21-9), which didn't get any other players in double figures in the school's ninth straight NCAA tournament. The loss snapped the Gauchos' winning streak at 10 games.
The teams, with a combined 11 players 6-foot-1 or taller, banged under the basket all afternoon - neither ready to make a first-round exit after both reached the round of 16 last season.
And, fittingly, outside the Save Mart Center a tornado warning was issued for the Fresno area.
Notre Dame began the second half with 6-1 spurt and didn't allow the Gauchos a field goal until Jessica Wilson's basket at 15:38, but UCSB rallied. Brandy Richardson scored with 3:10 left to pull the Gauchos within 50-46.
Gauchos forward Kristen Mann, ranked 12th nationally with a 19.9 scoring average, swished a shot on a one-handed fling at 1:52 but was called for traveling. And Duffy hit on the other end moments later.
Mann struggled against Notre Dame's stingy zone defense and rarely took an uncontested shot. She finished with seven points on 2-for-14 shooting, eight rebounds and seven turnovers.
Notre Dame leading scorer Jacqueline Batteast also had problems, getting eight points on 4-of-14 shooting and 10 rebounds.
The recruit who got away from UCSB helped eliminate the Gauchos, who had won 16 of their last 17. LaVere grew up near the UCSB campus in Ventura, Calif., and chose South Bend over staying close to home. She also contributed seven rebounds and two assists.
Moments after 6-foot-6 Kate Bauman capped a 10-2 first-half UCSB run with a three-point play, she was hit with a technical foul for throwing an elbow at Crystal Erwin. Then less than a minute later on the other end, Erwin hammered Fisher.
The Irish led 31-28 at the break.
Karena Bonds, the cousin of San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, went 0-for-4 with no points for the Gauchos.
Notre Dame also one the only other meeting between the schools, 86-75 in 1997.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the 10th consecutive year, corresponding exactly with its membership in the BIG EAST Conference ... the Irish also log their 27th victory of the season, matching the 1999-2000 club (27-5) for the third-highest single-season win total in school history (31 in 1996-97; 34 in 2000-01) ... the Irish are 9-1 all-time as a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament and 19-7 (.731) as a single-digit seed ... Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time vs. UC Santa Barbara, with both victories coming in California (the 86-75 Irish win in 1997 came at UCSB's Thunderdome) ... the Irish have held six of their last nine NCAA Tournament opponents to less than 60 points (57.3 ppg.), with one of those other three contests being a 69-65 OT win for Notre Dame vs. Southwest Missouri State in last year's opener ... Notre Dame is 20-0 this season when leading at halftime ... the Irish also are 24-1 when they outshoot their opponents ... sophomore guard Breona Gray scored in double figures for the sixth time this year and second time in the past three games ... senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast made her 96th consecutive start Saturday, breaking Katryna Gaither's school record which was set from 1994-97 ... junior guard Megan Duffy is averaging 18.0 ppg. in the postseason and 14.1 ppg. over the past eight games ... Irish head coach Muffet McGraw recorded her 499th career victory on Saturday, improving to 499-195 (.719) in 23 seasons as a college coach -- 18 at Notre Dame, five at Lehigh ... McGraw will try to become the 27th coach in NCAA Division I history to amass 500 career wins when the Irish face Arizona State Monday night (ESPN2, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET).