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Notre Dame Turns Back USC Women, 69-57

November 30, 2002|Mike Terry

USC took a shot Friday at joining the elite level of women's college basketball, facing 10th-ranked Notre Dame.

With the toughest part of a difficult nonconference schedule still ahead, the Trojans must hope it wasn't their last shot.

The teams dueled evenly for 28 minutes. But the taller, calmer Fighting Irish ultimately turned back the Trojans' upset bid, 69-57, before 1,317 at the Sports Arena. The victory improved Notre Dame's record to 2-0. USC fell to 3-2.

Five Notre Dame players scoring in double figures, led by Alicia Ratay's 17 points, overcame the Trojan trio of Rachel Woodward, Ebony Hoffman and Jessica Cheeks. Woodward had a career-high 22 points, but only six in the second half. Hoffman and Cheeks had 10 each.

Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw, who worried beforehand that USC's early schedule would prepare the Trojans well for the Irish, was relieved by the victory.

"Our defense got better as the game went on," McGraw said. "In the second half they weren't getting as many open shots, and we didn't turn the ball over as much. But this was a great win on the road against a very good team."

USC Coach Chris Gobrecht wasn't using words like "very good" after her team, which led, 37-34, at halftime, made only nine of 32 second-half shots (28.1%) and registered 13 of its 24 turnovers.

"I thought we played scared in the second half," Gobrecht said. "We had some mindless turnovers that killed us. They had more poise down the stretch."

Notre Dame's 2-3 matchup zone and big frontcourt combinations affected the Trojans, closing passing lanes and forcing USC to shoot more often from the perimeter.

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-- Mike Terry

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