Skylar Diggins

No. 3 Notre Dame Holds Off Syracuse, 74-73

Jan. 30, 2010

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) –Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw winced when Ashley Barlow launched from beyond the arc in the final minute and the third-ranked Irish trailed Syracuse by a basket.

But Barlow, who had missed her previous four 3-point attempts, was true from the right wing with 34.2 seconds left and Notre Dame escaped with a 74-73 victory on Saturday.

The Irish finished 2 of 12 in the period from beyond the arc against the fired-up Orange zone, which was victimized for eight 3s in the first half.

“That 3 was so big. We ran a play for her to get it and we executed well, screened well,” McGraw said. “Despite my screaming the entire half to stop shooting the 3, she just kept her poise and made it.”

Juanita Ward’s three-point play had given the Orange a 73-71 lead with a minute left, but Barlow got open on the wing and saved Notre Dame (19-1, 6-1 BIG EAST), which has beaten Syracuse (16-5, 3-5) 22 times in 23 meetings.

“We just had to stay with it. We didn’t hold our heads down,” said Barlow, who tied her season high with 19 points. “We knew that we had to get a couple of rebounds at the end of the game. We knew we had to make a stop.”

The Orange’s aggressive defense limited Notre Dame to 25 percent shooting (7 of 28) in the second half and they repeatedly drove the ball inside, outscoring the Irish 22-6 in the paint in the period (38-20 overall).

“Defensively, we couldn’t guard the ball,” McGraw said. “They got to the line 37 times. We did a poor job of containing the ball. We did a poor job on the boards. We just really didn’t play our game, and yet despite all the foul trouble and ice-cold shooting in the second half, we managed to hold onto the win.”

Syracuse also outrebounded Notre Dame 49-34, but was undone by 25 turnovers and 14 missed free throws.

“We stand up here every day and talk about our kids’ effort, how hard they play,” Orange coach Quentin Hillsman said. “I’m very appreciative, but the effort has to turn into wins. The effort has to turn into big wins. Right now, our efforts aren’t turning into big wins. When you outrebound a team like that (and don’t win), that’s tough.”

After the Irish’s Lindsay Schrader missed the front end of a 1-and-1, a held ball gave Syracuse one final possession with less than a second left. Tasha Harris’ inbounds pass to Kayla Alexander in the lane was deflected away.

“We didn’t let them get us rattled,” said Irish freshman guard Skylar Diggins, who matched her season high with 21 points. “We knew what we had to do to get calmed down. Their defensive pressure really picked up. They really got after it, had a lot of energy in the second half. We held it together.”

Ward led Syracuse with 16 points, Erica Morrow had 14, Vionca Murray 12 and Nicole Michael 11 before fouling out in the final minute.

The Irish survived despite squandering a 16-point lead in the opening minutes of the game. Syracuse began the second half with a 21-5 spurt to erase a 14-point halftime deficit and make it a game as the Irish went cold, hitting just 4 of their first 18 shots of the period.

Tyler Ash’s fast-break layup had the Orange within 53-47 at 16:35, and three straight points by Morrow tied it at 58 with 11:03 left.

Michael’s floater in the lane gave the Orange their first lead since the opening 2 minutes of the game, but Diggins tied it with a jumper in the lane and sank a free throw to put the Irish back in front.

It was tight the remainder of the game, with Notre Dame barely holding the lead. Brittany Mallory’s 3 gave the Irish a 68-63 with 5:56 left, and after Murray’s follow moved Syracuse within 68-67 just over a minute later, Harris fouled Mallory while she was shooting a 3 and she sank all three free throws to boost the Irish lead to 71-67 with 3:15 to go.

Seconds later, Murray missed a pair of free throws and Michael missed another with 71 seconds left.

“How many free throws we missed, I missed,” said Murray, who was 2 of 5 from the foul line. “We could have won that game. We’ll come back from this.”

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame wins its 10th consecutive game in the series and improves to 23-2 all-time against Syracuse (11-1 on the road, 11-game road win streak) … the 23 series wins tie for the second-most all-time against one opponent (also Georgetown and Valparaiso), trailing only the 28 wins registered against Marquette … five of past six series games with Syracuse have been decided by 13 points or fewer, including four at Syracuse … the Fighting Irish rise to 47-4 (.922) all-time against New York schools, including an 18-3 (.857) record on the road … Notre Dame moves to 25-10 (.714) on the road in the past two-plus seasons (since the start of the 2007-08 campaign), including a 5-1 record this year … the Fighting Irish had three double-digit scorers for the 16th time this season (16-0 record) … Notre Dame canned a season-high 10 three-pointers, the most for the Fighting Irish in a single game since March 3, 2002, when they also made 10 treys in an 84-79 loss to Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J. … Notre Dame’s 53 first-half points were its highest output in the opening 20 minutes since Dec. 8 vs. IPFW, when the Fighting Irish tallied 55 points in a 96-60 win at Purcell Pavilion … Notre Dame forced at least 25 opponent turnovers for the ninth time this season, and second time in as many games … the Fighting Irish logged double-digit steals for the 14th time in 20 games this season, topping the 15-steal mark for the seventh time (first since Jan. 9 when they had 19 thefts vs. Villanova at Purcell Pavilion) …for the sixth time in the past seven games vs. Syracuse, a Notre Dame player tied or set a new career high, as freshman guard Skylar Diggins matched her season best with 21 points … Diggins also set new personal highs with six assists (previous high was five on two occasins, the last on Dec. 20 vs. Charlotte) and four three-pointers (tying her production vs. #20/17 Oklahoma on Nov. 28 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands) … Diggins notched her third “5-5-5” game of the season, tying junior guard Brittany Mallory for team-high honors this season … senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow matched her season best with 19 points (also vs. Charlotte on Dec. 20) and tied her career high with four three-pointers (first set on Feb. 22, 2009 at Connecticut) … Barlow also converted the third four-point play of her career (all in the past season and a half) with 8.4 seconds left in the first half; it’s the second four-pointer of the year for the Fighting Irish, who got an unconventional four-point play from junior forward Becca Bruszewski on Dec. 8 vs. IPFW (Bruszewski made breakaway layup and was intentionally fouled, making both free throws) … Mallory chalked up her sixth double-digit scoring game of the year and first since Dec. 29 at UCF (16 points) … junior forward Devereaux Peters tallied a season-high four steals.