March 22, 2009
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame's home-court advantage was no match for Minnesota's 3-point shooting and strong rebounding.
The Gophers started the game by making 11 of 13 shots and opened a 14-point first-half lead, then used timely 3-point shooting to hold off Notre Dame 79-71 on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Emily Fox scored 23 points and Katie Ohm added 15 to pace the Gophers, who shot 49 percent from the field. Zoe Harper had 13 rebounds as the Gophers (20-11) outrebounded the Irish 45-32.
Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame (22-9) with 20 points.
The Irish, who twice this season overcame 14-point deficits to win, including coming back from a school-record 18 points down against Vanderbilt in December, couldn't pull even after the Gophers shot 63 percent in the first half to lead 42-30 at intermission.
Notre Dame used a 9-2 run to close to 50-44 with 15:12 left on a three-point play by Melissa Lechlitner. Moments later, the Irish cut the lead to 58-56 on a 3-pointer by Becca Bruszewski, but the Gophers answered with three 3-pointers by Ohm, Ashley Ellis-Milan and Fox to move ahead 67-56 with 5:12 left.
The Irish, who shot 33 percent, never got closer than six again. The 49 percent shooting was the highest by an opponent against Notre Dame this season -- even better than unbeaten and top-seeded Connecticut.
It marked the second time a 10th-seeded Minnesota squad knocked off No. 7 seed Notre Dame. The same thing happened in 1994, the first time the Irish hosted an NCAA tournament game. It was just the fourth time in 16 tournament appearances the Irish have lost in the first round.
The Gophers scored on 13 of their first 17 shots, with two of those baskets coming off missed shots, to a 33-19 lead on a basket inside by Ellis-Milan. They led 42-30 at halftime.
Minnesota, which had lost four of its last five heading into the Trenton regional, avoided being knocked out of the tournament in the first game for a third straight time.
The Irish fell to 6-2 all-time on their home court in NCAA games.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame now is 25-15 (.625) all-time in NCAA Championship play, with this marking the fourth time in 16 appearances that the Irish have been defeated in the first round of the tournament (second during their current run of 14 consecutive NCAA berths) ... two of those four losses (and both home defeats in eight all-time NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center) have come at the hands of Minnesota, with the Gophers also upsetting the Irish, 81-76 in a 7/10 first-round game in 1994 ... Notre Dame falls to 14-4 (.778) all-time as the higher seed in the NCAA tournament ... Minnesota's 79 points are the most allowed by the Irish in an NCAA postseason game since March 17, 2002, when Tennessee defeated Notre Dame, 89-50, in a Midwest Region second-round contest in Knoxville, Tenn. ... the Irish see their record against Big Ten Conference opponents fall to: 38-48 (.442) overall, 22-17 (.564) at home, 31-34 (.477) overall/17-12 (.586) at home in the 22-year Muffet McGraw era ... Notre Dame has its four-game home winning streak against Big Ten opponents snapped ... the Irish fall to 3-5 all-time against the Big Ten in the NCAA tournament (two of the three wins have come vs. Purdue in 1996 and 2001) ... Notre Dame loses for only the seventh time in its last 83 non-conference home games, with five of those seven losses coming to Big Ten schools ... Minnesota's .571 three-point percentage (8-of-14) was the highest by an Irish opponent in the NCAA Championship, exceeding the .563 mark posted by Oklahoma in the second round last year ... the Gophers also shot an opponent season-high .491 from the field ... junior guard Ashley Barlow scored a season-high 20 points, her first 20-point game since the first round of last year's NCAA Championship, when she also had 20 points in a win over SMU ... Barlow also edged past Danielle Green in 20th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,107 points (Green had 1,106 from 1995-2000) ... Barlow also moved into ninth place on the school's all-time list with 86 career three-pointers, one better than Sherri Orlosky's total from 1990-94 ... in addition, Barlow has tied Jeannine Augustin (1993-97) for ninth place on the Irish career steals list with 201 thefts ... sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski tied her career high with four assists, a mark she has hit on three other occasions, most recently on Dec. 20 vs. Loyola-Chicago ... all nine Irish losses this season came by 12 points or fewer, and in eight of those defeats (including Sunday's NCAA game vs. Minnesota), Notre Dame either led or had closed to within one possession in the second half ... for the third consecutive season, the Irish drew at least 100,000 fans to the Joyce Center, finishing with a total attendance of 100,355 and an average attendance of 7,168 (the latter figure is the second-highest in school history, topped only by a school-record 7,825 fans per game in 2001-02).