March 5, 2003
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast piled up her seventh double-double of the season with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds as Notre Dame defeated Syracuse, 62-54, Tuesday night in the BIG EAST Conference regular season finale for both teams at Manley Field House. It is the third consecutive win and seventh in the last nine games for the Irish, who finished in a tie for fifth place with Virginia Tech in the year-end BIG EAST standings with an 18-9 overall record and a 10-6 conference mark.
Senior guard Alicia Ratay turned in another steady performance on the perimeter, scoring 14 points and connecting on 4-of-9 three-point field goals for Notre Dame. Freshman forward Courtney LaVere chipped in with 10 points, sophomore forward Katy Flecky contributed 10 rebounds and a career-high four steals, and junior guard Le’Tania Severe added a season-high eight assists as the Irish defeated the Orangewomen for the 14th time in 16 career meetings.
Rochelle Coleman had a game-high 17 points, including five three-point field goals for Syracuse (10-17, 5-11 BIG EAST). April Jean notched 13 points, and Shannon Perry picked up her 15th double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Julie McBride, who came into the game as SU’s leading scorer, was limited to just six points on 2-of-11 shooting, although she did hand out a team-high seven assists.
Coleman’s long-range shooting was the story early in the first half, as the Syracuse guard pumped in three consecutive triples in the first 2:39 of the game to give her team a 9-4 lead. As it turned out, that would be the largest lead of the night for the Orangewomen. Notre Dame quickly tied the game at 11-all on a Batteast layup at the 11:48 mark.
That deadlock was the first of five ties in the opening half, with the last coming at 19-19 on a layup by LaVere with 6:50 left in the period. That basket ignited an 11-1 run to end the half, as Notre Dame held Syracuse without a field goal over the final seven minutes of the frame. Batteast hit a bucket in the lane with six seconds left to give the Irish their largest lead up to that point, 28-20 going into halftime.
The Orangewomen appeared rejuvenated in the early stages of the second half, as three-pointers by Coleman and McBride highlighted a 10-2 SU run that knotted the score at 30-all with 16:41 to play. Notre Dame steadied itself and rebuilt a five-point lead four times over the next five minutes, the final time coming at 42-37 on a three-pointer by freshman Megan Duffy.
Syracuse held fast and pulled even with the Irish once again, tying the game three times in a four-minute stretch. The Orangewomen eventually regained a 50-49 lead (their only edge of the second half) on a short jumper by Jean with 4:55 to play. That’s when Ratay went to work, burying three consecutive three-point baskets to single-handedly direct a 9-2 Notre Dame run as the visitors assumed a 58-52 lead with 1:17 remaining.
Coleman brought Syracuse back within four with a jumper on her team’s next possession. However, the Orangewomen were forced to begin fouling the Irish, and having only three team fouls to that point, they needed to begin hacking quickly to send Notre Dame to the foul line in the bonus situation. That strategy backfired somewhat when McBride was whistled for an intentional foul on Severe with 24.7 seconds to play. The Irish guard, who came into the game as an 81-percent foul shooter, buried both of her charities, and possession remained with Notre Dame. Sophomore center Teresa Borton knocked down two more bonus tosses two seconds later to assure the Irish of their ninth road victory this season.
Having lost the fifth-place tiebreaker with Virginia Tech (the Hokies defeated the Irish, 53-50 on Feb. 9), Notre Dame will be the No. 6 seed for the BIG EAST Championship, which begins Saturday in Piscataway, N.J., at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on the campus of Rutgers University. The Irish will face 11th-seeded Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. (EST) Saturday in the opening round of the BIG EAST Championship. Just last Wednesday (Feb. 26), Notre Dame defeated the Panthers, 77-69 at the Joyce Center in the only meeting between the two clubs this season. Saturday’s game will mark the first-ever postseason game between the Irish and Pittsburgh.
— ND —