Natalie Novosel scored 17 points. (AP)

No. 7 Notre Dame Drops Heartbreaker to No. 12 DePaul, 70-69

Feb. 28, 2011

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CHICAGO (AP) – Felicia Chester was positioned under the basket and suddenly had the ball in her hands with 5 seconds left and her team trailing.

And the DePaul senior found a way to get the Blue Devils the win.

Chester received Taylor Pikes’ pass and put up a layup and No. 12 DePaul stunned No. 7 Notre Dame 70-69 on Monday.

“I’m not sure what happened, I think I might have fallen on the floor and stood up and the ball was there,” said Chester, who scored a game-high 20 points. “I was in shock when it went in.”

The Blue Demons (26-5, 13-3) tied the Irish for second place, their best finish in Big East play. They also earned the No. 2 overall seed in this week’s conference tournament.

But Notre Dame (24-6, 13-3) wasn’t quite finished. Skylar Diggins, who had a team-high 18 points, drove the lane for her own game-winning try, only to have the ball stripped away as time expired.

“We were out of timeouts and had 5 seconds – which was plenty of time,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “Natalie (Novosel) chose to give it to Skylar, which was fine, and she tried to dribble through a crowd and we weren’t going to get a call.”

Chester scored 16 points in the second half as DePaul rallied from a nine-point deficit for a lead with 1:57 to play following Keisha Hampton’s layup.

Diggins hit two free throws with 1:49 to go, and Novosel followed with a 3-pointer as Notre Dame pulled to 66-65. Pikes restored a three-point lead with 59 seconds to play, but Diggins’ layup closed the gap to 68-67.

Brittany Mallory got a steal and passed to Devereaux Peters for a layup to give Notre Dame a 69-68 lead 28 with seconds left.

On the final possession, Chester was knocked down under the basket but got up in time to take Pikes’ pass.

DePaul used a tiebreaking 11-2 run as Pikes hit a pair of 3-pointers and Sam Quigley scored for a 20-11 lead with 10:59 left in the first half.

Just 3 1/2 minutes later, the Irish had sliced the deficit to 22-19 after Novosel’s steal and layup. The Blue Demons used a late 8-2 run to open a 32-24 lead in the final minute of the half.

DePaul outscored Notre Dame 18-11 off turnovers on the way to a 32-26 halftime lead.

“At the end of the first half we got foolish with the ball and I thought we would have had a 12-or 13-point lead at halftime,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “We came out in the second half and Notre Dame really took it to us. We had no answers offensively and we were in a state of temporary chaos.”

The Irish turned the tables early in the second half with a 9-2 run.

DePaul’s third turnover of the second half allowed Notre Dame to take its first lead since the opening minutes on Becca Bruszewski’s hook shot at 18:02.

DePaul retook the lead at 36-35 on Chester’s hook shot with 16:27 left, but Diggins gave Notre Dame a lead again seconds later with a bank off the glass.

Hampton added 17 points for the Blue Demons while Novosel also had 17 for Notre Dame.

The victory snapped DePaul’s two-game losing streak and extended its home winning streak to 19 straight.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is 4-6 against ranked teams this season, with all six losses coming to top-15 opponents, including four that were decided by five points or fewer (three on shots inside the final 15 seconds of regulation and/or overtime), and four on the road — with a fifth loss on the road at No. 2/3 Baylor by just 11 points … despite the loss, the Fighting Irish with a 13-3 BIG EAST Conference record and tied for second in the final standings, their best conference finish since 2004-05, which also was the last time Notre Dame registered 13 BIG EAST wins in a season … the Fighting Irish are seeded third for the BIG EAST Championship, having earned a “double bye” and will open postseason play with a BIG EAST quarterfinal game at 8 p.m. (ET) Sunday (March 6) on ESPNU from the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. — Notre Dame will face the winner of the second round game between No. 6 seed Louisville and the No. 11 seed Providence/No. 14 seed Villanova first-round winner … the Fighting Irish saw their series-best four-game winning streak against DePaul snapped, falling to 15-19 all-time against the Blue Demons, including 6-11 in Chicago … Notre Dame still holds an 11-9 series lead on DePaul in regular-season conference play, covering two leagues (6-4 in BIG EAST, 5-5 in now-defunct North Star) … of the 11 games played between the Fighting Irish and Blue Demons since DePaul joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06, seven have been decided by single digits, including five of the past seven … for as long as the Notre Dame-DePaul series goes back (34 games since the 1978-79 season), the aggregate point totals for the two teams remain amazingly close — the Fighting Irish have scored 2,295 points (67.5 points per game) in the series, while the Blue Demons have scored 2,332 points (68.6 ppg.) … Notre Dame recorded double-digit steals for the 22nd time this season … the Fighting Irish shot better than 45 percent from the floor for the 24th time this year … DePaul’s 12-0 second-half run marked just the sixth time all season Notre Dame allowed more than 10 consecutive points at any point in a game (conversely, the Fighting Irish have no fewer than 40 runs of 10-0 or better this year) … sophomore guard Skylar Diggins tied her career high with 10 made free throws (also done on Feb. 16, 2010, at St. John’s), and attempted a career-high 13 foul shots (previous was 12 on two occasions, the last on Feb, 5, 2011, at South Florida) … Diggins topped the 900-point mark for her career, currently standing with 906 points through 65 career games … senior guard/co-captain Brittany Mallory posted her seventh double-digit scoring night of the season, as well as her ninth game with three-or-more steals this year.