March 6, 2005
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
AP Sports Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Missing her first four shots didn’t shake up Jacqueline Batteast.
The Big East player of the year found other ways to help No. 10 Notre Dame early in the Fighting Irish’s 70-59 Big East quarterfinal win over West Virginia. She grabbed a couple of defensive rebounds and stole the ball until she found her shot.
When she finally did, Batteast scored 16 points, including seven straight during a late second-half run Sunday to help the Irish reach the semifinals for the sixth time in nine years.
“That’s how it’s been for a while. You have to keep shooting,” Batteast said. “It’s going to fall eventually, so you can’t stop.”
The Fighting Irish will face Connecticut on Monday. Notre Dame has made four trips to the final, losing each time to UConn.
Yolanda Paige led the Mountaineers (17-12) with 23 points.
Notre Dame has the Big East’s best winning percentage (81.5) in the regular season but hasn’t made it pay off in the postseason. The Irish have just one regular-season title in school history, sharing the crown with Connecticut in 2001, the year Notre Dame won its lone national championship.
The game pitted the conference’s top scorers in Batteast, the Big East player of the year, and West Virginia’s Meg Bulger, who averaged a league-high 19.6 points. Batteast was second at 17.4.
Bulger struggled all night, making just three of 15 shots and finishing with eight points.
“I think we are where we want to be defensively. We’ve done a pretty good job in that all year long,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think we’re pretty steady. You can’t really count on the ball going in the basket for you every night, so you have to be sharp defensively.”
The second-seeded Irish were in control from the start and led by as many as 14 in the second half, shooting 61 percent in the period. Batteast made sure they kept the cushion, scoring seven points in a 2-minute stretch.
The Mountaineers would get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Sherell Sowho added 11 points for West Virginia, and Olayinka Sanni grabbed a team-high seven boards.
Notre Dame controlled the boards, outrebounding West Virginia 32-23. The Irish also got 20 points from its backup players. Guard Charel Allen led the Notre Dame reserves with 11 points.
That’s something Mountaineers coach Mike Carey said his program must focus on in the future.
“We’ve got to get deeper. I’m happy with what we’ve got the floor. We’re not getting off the bench with much scoring,” Carey said.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame advances to the BIG EAST Championship semifinals for the seventh time in school history, but the first time since 2001, when the Irish lost to host Connecticut, 78-76 in the title game … Notre Dame is 13-1 all-time against West Virginia, although Sunday marked the first time the Irish and Mountaineers had met on a neutral floor … Notre Dame has scored at least 70 points 11 times in the 14-game series, while holding WVU under 60 points for the seventh time in their rivalry … the Irish pick up their first victory in five career games at the Hartford Civic Center (also 0-2 vs. Connecticut, 0-1 vs. Rutgers in ’04 BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals, 0-1 vs. Penn State in ’04 NCAA East Regional semifinals) … Notre Dame improves to 12-2 away from home this season and has held 13 of their 14 road opponents to less than 60 points … the Irish defense has been superb of late, holding their last 10 opponents to less than 60 points … Notre Dame had four double-figure scorers for the 10th time this season (10-0 record) and is 14-1 when at least three Irish player crack double digits … the Irish are 18-0 this season when their bench outscores the opposition … Notre Dame is 11-0 this year when shooting 45 percent or better from the floor (5-0 when reaching the 50-percent mark) … junior guard Megan Duffy narrowly missed her fifth double-digit assist game of the year, finishing with her 19th five-assist night of the campaign … she is approaching top 10 of the Notre Dame single-season assists chart with 168 (current Irish assistant coach Coquese Washington is in 10th place with 179 handouts in 1990-91) … Duffy also moved into a tie with Krissi Davis (1988-89) for sixth place on Notre Dame’s single-season steals list with 81 thefts … senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast jumped into the top 10 on the Irish single-season scoring list with 521 points this year, passing Ruth Riley (1999-2000) and Beth Morgan (1993-94), who had 518 apoints apiece … sophomore guard Breona Gray logged her fifth double-digit scoring game of the season, but her first since Jan. 5 vs. Syracuse (career-high 17 points) … Monday’s BIG EAST Championship semifinal game will be televised nationally on College Sports Television (CSTV), which is available on numerous cable systems across the country, as well as DirecTV Channel 610.