Jan. 5, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – If Saturday’s game between Notre Dame and Providence is any indication, the future of BIG EAST Conference women’s basketball certainly is bright.
Notre Dame’s freshman class combined for 55 points as the Irish raced out to a 19-point lead and then held off a furious Providence rally to post a 72-66 win before 7,804 fans at the Joyce Center. With the victory, Notre Dame extends its home winning streak to 45 games, preserving the longest active run in the nation. The Irish also improved to 50-3 all-time against BIG EAST opponents at the Joyce Center since joining the league in 1995.
Freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to pace the Notre Dame effort. Freshman center Teresa Borton came off the bench to tally a career-best 20 points, hitting nine-of-11 shots from the field, while freshman guard Kelsey Wicks matched her career high with nine points.
Sophomore forward Ryann Kilgore led Providence with a career-high 19 points in a reserve role. Freshman guard Michal Epstein added a career-best 13 points and six rebounds, while freshman forward Jessica Simmonds collected a team-high eight rebounds for the Friars, who remain winless in nine career meetings with the Irish.
Notre Dame (8-5, 2-0 BIG EAST) logged its sixth win in the last seven games thanks to another solid shooting performance – the Irish connected on 48.9 percent of their shots, including a .586 ratio in the first half. In the last three games, Notre Dame is shooting at a 51 percent clip (79-of-155). The Irish also made a season-best 24-of-34 free throws (.706) in Saturday’s win over Providence, topping the 70-percent mark from the line for the first time since Dec. 6 at Purdue.
The first half started as a nip-and-tuck affair, with four ties and four lead changes in the opening 11 minutes. Providence held the largest lead by either team during the first quarter of play, building a 16-10 edge on a three-pointer by Kilgore with 13:11 left in the first half. Notre Dame battled back with an 8-0 run, regaining the lead on a short jumper by Wicks at the 10:42 mark. However, that lead was short-lived, as the Friars snatched back a 21-20 advantage on a trey by Catrina Hawley-Stewart with nine minutes to go in the period.
From there, the Irish freshman corps went to work, as Batteast, Borton and Wicks combined to score 22 of the next 24 points, giving Notre Dame a seemingly comfortable 42-23 lead with 2:36 remaining in the first half. The Friars then provided the crowd with a preview of things to come, scoring the final six points of the period to whittle its deficit down to 13 points at the half.
Providence (7-7, 1-2) built on the mini-rally it started at the end of the first half, scoring seven of the first nine points in the period to pull within 44-36 less than three minutes into the stanza. Notre Dame worked the lead back up to 13 points twice over the next five minutes, owning a 54-41 edge with 13:42 to play.
At that point, the Friars rocked the Irish on their collective heels, going on a 18-6 run and getting within 60-59 on a three-pointer by Kristin Quinn with 6:24 still to play. However, Notre Dame steadied itself, getting a critical layup from Borton on the next possession to keep Providence at bay. Epstein hit a jumper to get the Friars back within 64-61 with 4:37 to go, but that would be as close as the visitors would get. The Irish held PC to two field goals over the final four minutes and made seven of 10 free throws in the last 62 seconds to seal the important conference victory.
Notre Dame will return to action Wednesday at 7 p.m. (EST) when it plays host to BIG EAST foe Seton Hall at the Joyce Center. Providence also gets back on the hardwood Wednesday, welcoming Villanova to Alumni Hall for a 7 p.m. (EST) tip.
– ND –