Feb. 17, 2004
JAMAICA, N.Y. — Behind solid three-point shooting from a cagey veteran and some timely free throw shooting down the stretch, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team picked up an important BIG EAST Conference road win, toppling St. John’s, 69-56 on Tuesday night at Alumni Hall in Jamaica, N.Y. The victory, coupled with West Virginia’s loss at Villanova later in the evening, lifted the Irish back into second place in the conference standings, one-half game clear of the Mountaineers.
Sophomore guard Megan Duffy (Dayton, Ohio/ Chaminade-Julienne HS) led all scorers with 17 points, connecting on a career-high 11 of 13 free throws. Senior guard Jeneka Joyce (Topeka, Kan./Washburn Rural HS) turned in her second consecutive career performance, rolling up new personal bests with 15 points and five three-point field goals (on 10 attempts). Senior guard Le’Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Fort Lauderdale HS) also established a career milestone, notching her first-ever double-double with 10 points and a career-high tying 10 rebounds. Junior center Teresa Borton (Yakima, Wash./West Valley HS) made a solid contribution on the glass, matching her career best with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Angie Clark piled up a double-double for St. John’s, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Kim MacMillan, who came into the game ranked second in the nation in three-pointers made per game, lived up to her sharpshooting reptuation, scoring 14 points and hitting four of nine treys. Shemika Stevens chipped in with 12 points and a game-high six assists for the Red Storm.
Notre Dame (16-8, 9-3 BIG EAST) earned its seventh win in the last eight games the hard way, fighting off a stiff challenge from a rapidly-improving St. John’s club. The Irish found themselves almost right from the opening tip, as Stevens converted a three-point play only four seconds into the game. The hosts opened up a four-point lead in the early stages before Notre Dame took its first lead at 7-6 on a triple by Joyce at the 16:29 mark. That signalled the beginning of a back-and-forth struggle that would last well into the second half. In fact, the team combined for 10 lead changes in the first half alone.
St. John’s (9-14, 3-9) had the largest lead of the period for either side, going on an 11-4 run that included a pair of threes by MacMillan, and taking a 34-28 advantage with 2:40 to go. Notre Dame rallied to within a point, but Danielle Chambers sank a layup with 11 seconds remaining to give the Red Storm a 36-33 lead at halftime. SJU shot a blistering 53.6 percent (15 of 28) in the opening 20 minutes.
The see-saw affair continued into the second half with two more ties and three more lead changes in the first 11 and a half minutes. The Irish grabbed a three-point lead, matching their largest at the time, at 45-42 when sophomore forward Courtney LaVere hit a spinning layup in the paint with 9:08 left. However, that was quickly erased when MacMillan canned her third three-pointer of the night just 36 seconds later to knot the score at 45-45. At it turned out that would be the final tie of the ball game.
Duffy gave Notre Dame the lead for good with an old-fashioned three-point play at the 7:43 mark. That ignited a 10-2 Irish run that swung the momentum over to the visitors’ side. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind./Washington HS), who had been held largely in check to that point, came up big in the game-changing run, grabbing a pair of missed layups and converting on her third opportunity with six minutes left. That boardwork also helped propel Batteast into 10th place on the school’s career rebounding list with 669 caroms, passing Alicia Ratay (665 from 1999-2003).
Joyce then followed with a crucial three-pointer, finding the bottom of the net for the fifth time as the shot clock expired with 4:40 remaining. Batteast tacked on a foul line jumper on her team’s next possession and Notre Dame was in control.
St. John’s made one final charge, getting within six points twice, the second coming when MacMillan hit a trey with 2:23 left to pull her side within 58-52. However, the Irish kept the Red Storm at bay down the stretch, connecting on 14 of 16 free throws in the final three minutes — Duffy was eight for 10 and Severe made all six of her foul shots. As a team, Notre Dame wound up connecting at an 84.6 percent clip (22 of 26) from the free throw line in the victory.
With the win, the Irish have assured themselves of finishing with a winning record for the 23rd time in the 27-year history of the program. It also is the 12th consecutive winning season for Notre Dame and its 16th winning campaign in the 17-year Muffet McGraw era.
Notre Dame will return to action Saturday when it pays a visit to Pittsburgh for a 2 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST matchup with the Panthers at the sold-out Petersen Events Center.
— ND —