Notre Dame was picked by the BIG EAST coaches to finish second in the conference this season, while senior guards Ashley Barlow (pictured) and Lindsay Schrader were named to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team and rookie guard Skylar Diggins was chosen as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year.

#22 Irish Fall To #10/12 Louisville, 71-66

Feb. 11, 2009

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – No. 22 Notre Dame was a second away from forcing 10th-ranked Louisville into a big turnover. Angel McCoughtry made sure it didn’t happen.

After Notre Dame used a 6-0 run to close within two points with less than two minutes left, there was 1 second left on the shot clock when McCoughtry threw up a hurried 3-pointer. She missed, but Melissa Lechlitner was called for the foul. McCoughtry hit all three free throws and the Cardinals hung on for a 71-66 victory on Wednesday night.

“She found a way to get to the free-throw line,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “I was excited she was able to step up there and do what an All-American is supposed to do.”

Lechlitner and the rest of the Irish thought she got all ball, including Irish coach Muffet McGraw.

“I’m sitting on the Notre Dame side,” McGraw said. “I thought it was all ball and it was kind of not really even a shot. She barely had control of the ball when she shot it. So I thought we’d get lucky there and get the rebound.”

McCoughtry said she was just trying to get a shot off so her teammates could rebound.

McCoughtry, who started the game making just 2-of-11 shots for four points in the first half, finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals. Candyce Bingham added 21 points and 12 rebounds.

The Cardinals (22-3, 9-2) bounced back from a surprising loss at home to West Virginia to avoid its first back-to-back losses this season.

“We just lost a little bit of respect from last game so we had to come out and play hard,” McCoughtry said. “It was a gutsy win. They played great. We needed this type of game because the tournament is coming up and those are the types of games you have during tournament time.”

Becca Bruszewski led Notre Dame (17-6, 6-5) with 18 points to tie her career high, Natalie Novosel had 17 and Ashley Barlow added 16 points and eight rebounds.

Notre Dame, which trailed by 10 at halftime, opened the second half on an 11-4 run, closing to 42-39 on a 3-pointer by Barlow. The Cardinals quickly regained control, though, with a 13-0 run. McCoughtry had a pair of steals for easy layups during the run. The Irish, though, made a game of it.

It was the fifth loss in eight games for the Irish, but McGraw believes the Irish are playing better.

“Early in the year we were losing to some teams we shouldn’t have lost to and we weren’t really playing well. But when you look at us now, they’re a top 10 team and we obviously are right there with them,” she said. “So even though we lost I think we can draw some good things from that game.”

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame was playing its third consecutive Associated Press Top 25 opponent, the first time the Irish have faced such a challenging stretch in the regular season since the 1996 Preseason WNIT (Nov. 17-20), when Notre Dame took on #6 Iowa (W, 61-50), #3 Tennessee (L, 72-59) and #8 North Carolina State (W, 64-53) … the Irish are 5-2 against ranked opponents this season (3-1 at home) … the last three times Notre Dame has played an AP Top 10 opponent, it has lost by 10 points or fewer (57-51 at #5 Rutgers on Feb. 19, 2008; 74-64 vs. #3 Tennessee in NCAA Oklahoma City Regional Semifinal on March 30, 2008) … Louisville regains a 4-3 series lead on Notre Dame (2-1 at the Joyce Center), while the road team continues to hold the upper hand, winning four of the six on-campus games in the series to date … the seven-game aggregate point total in the series is virtually even, with the Irish edging the Cardinals, 460-459 … six of the seven series games have been decided by 11 points or fewer, including all four since Louisville joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06 (series tied 2-2 in BIG EAST play) … each of Notre Dame’s six losses this season has been decided by 12 points or fewer, with five of them seeing the Irish either leading, or with a possession to tie or take the lead in the second half or overtime … junior guard Ashley Barlow became the 24th player in school history to score 1,000 career points, reaching the milestone exactly with her final two points of the evening (a pair of free throws with 37 seconds remaining that pulled the Irish within 66-63) … sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski tied her career high with 18 points, matching the total she had earlier this season against Evansville (Nov. 19 at the Joyce Center) and at Boston College (Nov. 23) … Bruszewski has scored in double figures in four consecutive games and six times in the past eight contests, after posting six double-digit point games all of last season … for the third time this season, freshman guard Natalie Novosel tied her season highs with four steals (last: at Marquette on Jan. 13) and four assists (last: at Eastern Michigan on Dec. 2), while matching her 7-of-11 shooting performance vs. Rutgers on Jan. 27 … Novosel also scored at least 17 points for the fourth time this season while logging her eighth double-figure scoring night of the year … junior center Erica Williamson had two blocked shots and moves into sole possession of 10th place on the Notre Dame career blocks chart with 95, passing Heidi Bunek (93 from 1985-89) and pulling within two blocks of former teammate Melissa D’Amico (97 from 2004-08) for ninth place … Louisville’s Angel McCoughtry tied the Joyce Center opponent record for steals in a game previously set by Detroit’s Amira Danforth on Jan. 29, 1994 … for the first time this season, Notre Dame took the floor in their alternate home white uniforms with green trim.