March 23, 2003
By CHUCK SCHOFFNER
AP Sports Writer
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Alicia Ratay scored nine of her 20 points in a 15-0 second-half run that sent 11th-seeded Notre Dame to a 59-47 victory over Arizona on Sunday night in the first round of the East Regional.
Notre Dame (20-10) frustrated sixth-seeded Arizona and its 6-foot-5 freshman center, Shawntinice Polk, with a collapsing zone defense and moved into a second-round game Tuesday night against the Kansas State-Harvard winner.
Courtney LaVere added 15 points for the Irish, who survived a poor game by season scoring leader Jacqueline Batteast. Batteast never got untracked and scored only three points on 1-for-16 shooting.
Arizona (22-9) shot a season-low 23.3 percent (17-of-73) and that played right into Notre Dame’s hands. The Irish didn’t have to extend their defense and were able to keep two or three defenders around Polk, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds but was only 4-of-14 from the field.
Krista Warren led Arizona with 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, not enough to keep coach Joan Bonvicini from losing in the first round for the first time in 14 NCAA tournament appearances.
Notre Dame was struggling to score and trailed 37-34 with 12 minutes left when Ratay, who had been scoreless in the Irish’s last game, got her team going.
Ratay hit a 3-pointer from the left side to tie it, then made a free throw to put the Irish ahead and the lead grew from there. Ratay nailed a 3 from the right side, Teresa Borton scored on a hook in the lane and Ratay sank two free throws.
Two straight baskets inside by LaVere made it 49-37 with 4:48 left and finished the run. Arizona went scoreless for 8? minutes and never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
Arizona had last played on March 10 and Notre Dame had been idle since March 9. The effects of the long layoffs showed as both teams shot poorly, were careless with the ball and generally were ineffective on offense for long stretches.
Much of the game was a series of wild misses from point-blank range and airballs from the perimeter. Arizona’s frustration came to a head late in the game when Dee-Dee Wheeler, who was 3-for-20, had to hoist up a 40-footer that fell well short to try to beat the shot clock.
Notre Dame scored the final six points of the first half to take a 23-21 lead, but Arizona went back ahead at 25-23 on rare baskets by Wheeler and Polk early in the second half. There were four more lead changes before Ratay, who had only four points at halftime, started her surge.