Nov. 27, 2005
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Nothing came easy for Notre Dame against USC.
The 13th-ranked Fighting Irish turned the ball over 20 times, struggled from the free-throw line down the stretch and scored in spurts, yet managed to beat the 24th-ranked Trojans 73-62 Sunday.
"We'd kind of like to have one where it just looked good and felt good the whole game," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "But I think that's the way it's going to be for us this year."
McGraw was most pleased that the Irish didn't let the mistakes get them down.
"In the end, when we just couldn't make a free throw. We had possessions where we couldn't make a rebound, I thought we just kept battling," she said. "I think that was one of the turning points for this young team. One of our worries was that when they made a lot of mistakes, they might put their heads down."
The Trojans trailed only 63-60 with 3:11 left, but were 1-of-9 from the field down the stretch. The drought included two air balls, and they missed front ends of two one-and-ones.
"We forced them to take some contested shots," McGraw said.
The Irish (4-0) pulled away despite missing six straight free throws in the final minutes. Lindsay Schrader drove end-to-end for a layup to give the Irish a 65-60 lead and start the decisive run. Megan Duffy, who had 19 points, followed with a layup off one of her six steals. Notre Dame ended its poor shooting from the free-throw line, making 6-of-7 to put the game away.
Chloe Kerr led USC with 15 points and 11 rebounds, Camille LeNoir had 12 points, Eshaya Murphy had 11 and Jamie Hagiya had 10.
USC shot just 31.9 percent.
"If we could have shot around 36 percent, who knows?" USC coach Marl Trakh said. "You have to execute the last few minutes of the game. You have to make big shots, and Notre Dame did that."
It was the second straight road loss for the Trojans (2-2), who were 6-7 on the road last year.
"Being young, you need veterans on the road," Trakh said. "We'll have that next year."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is off to a 4-0 start for the second consecutive season, the first time in the program's 29-year history the Irish have put together back-to-back 4-0 starts (last year's team began the year 7-0) ... the Irish knock off their first ranked opponent this season, their 15th in the past two-plus seasons and their 38th in the past seven-plus years ... since the start of the 2003-04 season, Notre Dame is 11-2 at home against Top 25 teams (and one of the two losses was an 82-73 overtime setback to #15 Michigan State last season) ... late-game runs have played a pivotal role in the last two Irish wins -- Notre Dame closed Wednesday's victory at Indiana on a 19-6 spurt, and ended Sunday's win over USC on a 10-2 charge ... the Irish have won 56 of their last 59 non-conference home games, dating back to the 1994-95 season ... Notre Dame improves to 7-1 all-time against USC, including a 4-0 record at the Joyce Center ... Sunday's score also was identical to the last time the Women of Troy came to South Bend (73-62 on Dec. 22, 2003) ... Notre Dame was one point shy of its largest point total in the series, while USC matched its second-highest series point total ... the Irish now are 17-15 (.531) all-time against Pac-10 Conference teams, but have won 14 of their last 17 games vs. the Pac-10 ... the eight-point first-half deficit was the largest for Notre Dame at any time this season ... the Irish had a season-best four players score in double figures, the first time that's happened since March 6, 2005, when another Notre Dame quartet pulled off the feat vs. West Virginia in the BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinals at the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center ... senior forward Courtney LaVere came off the bench to score 16 points, her highest output since she had 17 in a reserve role at Pittsburgh on Feb. 5, 2005 ... sophomore center Melissa D'Amico registered new career highs with 13 points and 10 rebounds en route to her first career double-double ... junior guard Breona Gray grabbed a career-high eight rebounds and matched her personal best with three steals ... senior guard Megan Duffy's six steals were one away from her career high -- she also played all 40 minutes for the second consecutive game and has had 11 assists and only one turnover in those 80 combined minutes.