Feb. 16, 2008
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — When Chandrea Jones made her only basket of the game and finished a three-point play, Syracuse was tied with Notre Dame with just over 3 minutes left and magic was in the Carrier Dome air again.
Earlier Saturday, the Orange men had beaten No. 8 Georgetown before a crowd of 31,327, the largest on-campus attendance in the nation this season. It was their biggest win of the season and the women seemed primed to match the feat.
Melissa Lechlitner had other ideas. After Erica Morrow had led a 10-2 run by the No. 21/23 Orange to put them in front 61-60 with 5:13 left, Lechlitner hit a baseline jumper to break a 64-all tie and followed with a runner in the lane, her only baskets of the game, as the 16th-ranked Irish scored 10 straight points and beat Syracuse 79-67.
“We were just coming out of a timeout and [assistant] coach [Niele] Ivey came up to me and said, ‘Just shoot it. You’re going to hit it,’ ” Lechlitner said. “The next possession I drove it and there was an opening in the middle and it went down for me. I didn’t have a good game offensively until I hit that shot. It was good to step up at the right time.”
“The two field goals by Melissa really broke the game open for us,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think the key possessions when the game was tied were the difference. It gave us a little bit of a cushion and we were able to hang on.”
In the decisive final 2 minutes, Morrow missed a baseline jumper, Jones and Vaida Sipaviciute were called for fouls, and Jones committed a turnover to halt the Orange attack.
“We wanted to keep our composure and play our game and not feed into the crowd,” Allen said after her fourth career double-double. “I had been struggling the last six or seven games. I felt like this was going to be a good game for me because of the (way I felt in) shootaround and warmups.”
Morrow led the Orange with 19 points, Nicole Michael had 14 points and six rebounds, and Vaida Sipaviciute had 12 points. Jones, the team’s leading scorer at 16 points, finished with just four on 1-for-12 shooting for the Orange, who lost for only the second time in 12 home games.
Ranked this season for the first time in program history, Syracuse trailed — but not by much — for most of the game before tying it and then fizzling when the game was on the line.
“I’m very disappointed,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. “Overall, they were a little more physical than we were. That was it. They really beat us on the glass. They really took advantage of us in rebounding, and if you can’t rebound the basketball, you can’t win.”
Notre Dame (20-5, 8-3 BIG EAST) outrebounded Syracuse 45-31, 20-14 on the offensive glass, and moved to 17-0 in BIG EAST regular-season play against Syracuse (19-5, 7-4) and into a tie for fourth in the conference with Pittsburgh.
The Irish won last season’s meeting with Syracuse 83-55. McGraw knows that’s not likely to happen again anytime soon. Syracuse, which lost 20 games last season, is one win away from only the third 20-win season in program history.
“It’s amazing the turnaround in the Syracuse program,” McGraw said. “They play hard and together.”
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame records its 14th 20-win season in the past 15 years and its 18th 20-win season in the 21-year Muffet McGraw era … the Irish earn their second victory over a ranked opponent in a six-day span, following last Sunday’s 81-66 win over 15th-ranked Pittsburgh at the Joyce Center … Notre Dame posts its first road win over a ranked opponent since Feb. 15, 2005, when it claimed a 54-47 victory at No. 25/22 Boston College; Syracuse is the highest-ranked team the Irish have defeated on the road since Jan. 30, 2005, when they downed No. 9/10 Connecticut, 65-59 … the Irish move to 21-2 all-time against Syracuse, winning their eighth consecutive game in the series, and improve to 10-1 all-time at SU … Notre Dame had two players record double-doubles in the same game for the first time since Jan. 26, 2005 vs. St. John’s, when three players (Crystal Erwin, Megan Duffy and Jacqueline Batteast) all logged double-doubles in a 72-65 Irish win at the Joyce Center … the double-doubles for senior guard Charel Allen and sophomore center Erica Williamson were their first of the season (fourth of Allen’s career, second in Williamson’s tenure); Notre Dame now has had five different players notch a double-double this season … Allen becomes the first Irish player with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game since she herself did so on Feb. 11, 2007 vs. DePaul (25 points, career-high 13 rebounds) in a 78-70 Notre Dame win at the Joyce Center … Notre Dame converted 11-of-14 free throws (.786) in the final 1:20, with five different players making foul shots down the stretch … Syracuse came into the game ranked second in the BIG EAST in rebounding margin (+9.5 rpg.), but the Irish won the battle of the boards by a 45-31 count … playing before a vocal crowd of more than 100 family and friends from her old hometown of Rochester, N.Y. (about 90 minutes west of Syracuse), Williamson not only collected her double-double, but also registered a career-high three steals, one more than her old mark that she set on four occasions (most recently on Wednesday night vs. Marquette) … freshman guard Brittany Mallory tied her career-high with three three-point field goals, matching her output on Jan. 13 at No. 16 West Virginia … senior guard Tulyah Gaines’ eight assists were one off her season high (career-best-tying nine at IUPUI on Dec. 21).