March 7, 2004
HARTFORD, Conn. – Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind./Washington HS) scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but it was not enough as the second-seeded Notre Dame women’s basketball team was upset by the No. 7 seed Rutgers, 51-45, Sunday night in the quarterfinals of the 2004 BIG EAST Championship at the Hartford Civic Center.
Batteast moved into 12th place on the Irish career scoring list with 1,249 points, tallying 16 of her points in the first half. However, she was the only Notre Dame player to score in double figures. Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere (Ventura, Calif./Buena HS) had eight points and junior forward Katy Flecky (Lone Tree, Colo./Highlands Ranch HS) came off the bench to kick in eight points and a season-high seven rebounds for the Irish. Cappie Pondexter led Rutgers with 24 points, while Dawn McCullouch added 15 markers for the Scarlet Knights, who picked up their third consecutive series win over Notre Dame.
The Irish (19-10) exploded from the gate in the early going, racing out to a 17-2 lead with 10:54 remaining in the first half behind 11 points from Batteast. Rutgers (20-10) steadied itself, but Notre Dame still held a 20-10 lead with 4:09 left in the period. That’s when the Scarlet Knights went on a 9-3 run to end the half, pulling within 23-19 at the break.
Notre Dame remained in front for the first seven minutes of the second half, fighting off several Rutgers attacks. However, the Scarlet Knights’ pressure finally paid off as they took their first lead of the game at 29-28 on Courtney Locke’s jumper with 12:39 to go. From there, the Irish went on a 7-0 run to take their largest edge of the second half (35-29) at the 10:13 mark. At that time, Notre Dame went scoreless for five minutes while Rutgers tied the game twice. The Scarlet Knights finally took the lead for good on two Pondexter free throws with just over five minutes left. Rutgers had a 43-40 lead after Michelle Campbell beat the shot clock with a baseline jumper at the 2:09 junction. Senior guard Le’Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Fort Lauderdale HS) answered with an old-fashioned three-point play on Notre Dame’s next possession and the score was tied with 1:48 left.
Pondexter gave her team the lead for good with two free throws 18 seconds later, followed by a jumper with 28 seconds to go which made it 47-43. Batteast hit a putback with 7.6 seconds to go, getting back within two points, but Pondexter iced the victory with two free throws and McCullouch hit a breakaway layup in the waning moments for the final margin. Pondexter wound up going 12 for 12 at the foul line, part of Rutgers’ 16 for 18 effort (.889).
Notre Dame will now await its postseason fate when the NCAA Tournament pairings are announced at 5 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 14 live on ESPN. The Irish have been selected as a host site for first and second-round games and should they be selected to the NCAA Tournament, they are guaranteed to play at home inside the Joyce Center.
— ND —