Feb. 16, 2003
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Senior guard Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill./Lake Zurich H.S.) poured in a season-high 30 points and tied her career best with seven three-point field goals, as Notre Dame picked up its fourth win in the last five games with a 67-61 BIG EAST Conference triumph at Providence Sunday afternoon.
Ratay canned six of her seven three-point attempts in the first half, finishing the day one trey short of the school record held by Sheila McMillen (vs. St. John’s, 2/28/98) and two shy of the BIG EAST record owned by West Virginia’s Christine Lambert (vs. Providence, 1/21/98). It is the third 30-point game of Ratay’s career, making her just the sixth player in school history to top the 30-point mark three times at Notre Dame. Ratay also needs just four triples to tie McMillen’s school record of 249 career three-point field goals from 1995-99.
“It was nice to have some open looks because those have been rare for me this year, and my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball,” Ratay said. “With as good as our posts are at passing the ball, my job was pretty straightforward out there.”
“Alicia had a fantastic game and continues to show why she’s been a leader by example for us this season,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She was hot today, and our team fed off her success.”
In addition to her scoring and shooting prowess (she was 9-of-12 from the field overall), Ratay also claimed team-high rebounding honors, pulling down seven caroms in the victory. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind./Washington H.S.) chipped in with 15 points, six rebounds and four steals for the Irish.
Jessica Simmonds and Kristin Quinn shared team-high scoring honors for Providence with 15 points each, leading four Friars in double figures. Quinn got the starting nod in place of PC’s leading scorer, Michal Epstein, who was sidelined with an injury. Quiana Copeland came off the bench to grab a game-high nine rebounds for the Friars.
Playing before a boisterous Senior Day crowd of 1,781 at Alumni Hall, Providence (9-14, 3-9 BIG EAST) jumped out to an early 12-2 lead behind six quick points from Simmonds. The Friars maintained their advantage for the next 12 minutes and owned a 27-20 lead when Simmonds sank a layup with 7:35 remaining in the first half.
However, as it has done with regularity over the last five games, Notre Dame rode the strength of its defense to erase the deficit. For the fourth consecutive contest, the Irish used a massive scoring spurt to seize control, this time going on a 32-4 run that spanned 12:26 and crossed over into the second half. Ratay highlighted the charge with 13 points, including four three-pointers over that stretch. She also converted a rare four-point play (her first this year and third of her career) with 2:24 left in the first half to push the Notre Dame lead into double digits for the first time.
“We did a nice job of remaining calm and focused on the task at hand when we fell behind early,” McGraw noted. “There wasn’t a sense of panic in the huddle at all. We all knew what had to be done and then we went out there and executed it.”
When the dust had settled, the Irish (15-8, 7-5) led by a comfortable 21-point margin (52-31) with 14:57 to play. Providence would not go quietly, and used an 18-5 run of its own to pull back within 57-49 with 5:27 remaining. Ratay helped Notre Dame rebuild a 12-point lead when she knocked down a long jumper with 2:45 left, but PC hung tough and behind three-point baskets from Quinn and Brooke Freeburg, the Friars got to within 63-57 with 32 seconds left.
Ratay then iced the game for Notre Dame at the free throw line, hitting two charities with 28 seconds to go for an eight-point margin. She nailed two more with five seconds left to fend off a final Providence charge after the hosts had whittled the lead to 65-61 on two Quinn free throws.
“I was disappointed at our lack of focus at the end of the game,” McGraw said. “We had some mental lapses down the stretch and that allowed them to come back and make a game of it. We have to do a much better job of staying disciplined and focused for the entire 40 minutes. Still, I’m continuing to see improvement in this team each time we take the floor and that’s a real positive sign at this point in the season.”
Notre Dame will have a week off before it returns to the hardwood Sunday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m. (EST), traveling to Storrs, Conn., to take on top-ranked Connecticut. The Huskies have won a NCAA-record 63 consecutive games, following their victory over Seton Hall on Sunday afternoon.
— ND —