Dec 4, 2002
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
VALPARAISO, Ind. – Notre Dame was outhustled by Valparaiso, and almost outmuscled by the smaller Cruaders.
Valparaiso, though, had too many scoreless streaks to pull off the upset as No. 9 Notre Dame held on for a 74-68 victory Wednesday night.
“We were really unprepared,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “It looked like we were standing around.”
Notre Dame (3-0), which converted 30 free throws, managed to hold on despite not making a basket in the final 4:52. Suzie Hammel led Valparaiso (2-4) with 17 points, all but two of them in the first half.
“She was impossible for us to guard,” McGraw said. “She looked like the best player we’ve played. We just didn’t have any answer for her. She got to the basket when she wanted to. She did pretty much what she wanted to.”
The key for the Irish was an 11-0 run early in the second half. Jacqueline Batteast and Katy Flecky got a couple of quick layups to start the run as the Irish opened a 42-30 lead.
“We got some easy baskets,” McGraw said. “We weren’t able to get any easy baskets except for that. Their defense was really good. We just couldn’t get anything.”
The Irish, who made 30 of 40 free throws, converted 10-of-12 in the final 4:23. The Crusaders were 13-of-18 from the free-throw line for the game.
Valparaiso coach Keith Freeman, said his team did not play physical enough against Navy earlier in the week. But they looked like a different team against Notre Dame.
“Our whole mindset was completely different. The whole attitude on offensive rebounding was different,” he said. “I felt we did a great job of pursuing the glass.”
Notre Dame appeared ready to break the game open twice, but both times the Crusaders rallied back. The Irish used an 11-0 run early in the second half to open a 42-30 lead and kept their advantage at eight points or higher until Kathryn Knoester converted a three-point play with 1:59 left to cut the lead to 68-61. A 3-pointer by Knoester with 1:25 made it 70-64.
The Crusaders had a chance to cut the lead to four points, but Jeanette Gray tried to split two Irish defenders and wound up making a bad shot from 10 feet away along the baseline. The Crusaders never got closer than six points thereafter.
The five Irish starters accounted for all but three of Notre Dame’s points, with La’Tania Severe scoring 15 on 11-of-14 shooting from the free-throw line, and Jacqueline Batteast and Katy Flecky getting 13 points each. Teresa Borton had nine points and eight rebounds.
The Irish used an 11-4 spurt midway through the first half to open a 21-10 lead and appeared ready to take control. The Crusaders were just 1-for-16 during the run and were forced to repeatedly take bad shots as the shot clock ran down.
“The shots just weren’t falling,” Hammel said. “We had good looks.”
But the Crusaders, led by Hammel, suddenly got hot, hitting 7-of-8 shots from the floor the rest of the half to close to 31-28 at halftime. Hammel made all six of her shots during the stretch, including a 3-pointer. Valparaiso had two chances to tie the score but had a turnover and a missed 3-pointer.
“I think we played fearless tonight and it showed,” Hammel said.
The victory was the second road win for the Irish, who lost their first five games away from the Joyce Center last season.