|California guard Afure Jemerigbe (2) shoots around Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory during the first half of a second-round NCAA women's tournament college basketball game in South Bend, Ind., Tuesday, March 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)|
Cal women play great first half but falter in 2nd
SOUTH BEND, Ind.—California did what it wanted to do for a half Tuesday night. The Golden Bears were determined to be the aggressor. They got in Notre Dame's face on defense, pounded the boards, made shots and kept the Irish's home crowd out of the game. They were tied with the top seed at the half.
But then came the opening minutes of the second half and suddenly Notre Dame's defense took control. The Irish made five steals in four minutes, jumped out with a 10-2 run and went on to a 73-62 victory in he second round of the NCAA tournament.
"I think Notre Dame feeds of the crowds and gets better. I didn't feel like our mistakes came from panic. I think it came when the other team was able to do things that rattle you," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said.
" There is no question we got a little bit rattled and made some mistakes that changed the tempo of the game at the beginning of the second half."
Cal (25-10) got 17 points from Layshia Clarendon and 15 from Reshanda Gray. But the Golden Bears were hurt by 19 turnovers, 12 in the second half.
"They just didn't steal the ball, we also threw it to them a number of times," Clarendon said. "We lost our composure. ... We've faced pressure all year, we've faced zone and we've faced ranked teams. I think it was us more than them, taking crazy and quick shots and not playing how we know how to play."
Notre Dame went up 17 in the second half right after Clarendon's hard foul on Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins led to a free throw and then a 3-pointer by Kayla McBride. The Golden Bears fought hard to rally within nine points on several occasions but couldn't keep Natalie Novosel off the free throw line. Novosel made six straight in the final minute to preserve the win and was 18-for-20 at the line to finish with 28 points.
"When we shook hands after the game, (Notre Dame coach) Muffet (McGraw) said to me, `you have a top ten team next year,'" Gottlieb said.
But for now the Golden Bears are going home after being in South Bend since last Thursday and Notre Dame is going to the round of 16 for the 10th time in 16 seasons.
"We knew this would be a challenge. They gave us everything we could handle," McGraw said.
Diggins had 15 of her 21 points in the second half and Devereaux Peters had 11 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks.
"Shots weren't falling for me at first, so I just started attacking the basket and was able to get confidence there," Novosel said.
The Golden Bears stayed close in the opening half with tough defense, a deep bench and poise as they refused to be bothered by Notre Dame's partisan and loud home crowd. They physical play and tough rebounding to forge the tie.
Then it all changed quickly in the opening minutes of the second half.
Diggins scored four points and Kayla McBride hit a layup after making a steal. After a timeout, McBride made another steal and Brittany Mallory drove for a lefty layup and a 41-33 lead.
Peters made two free throws for a 10-point lead and the Golden Bears stayed close because of two clutch jumpers by Clarendon.
Diggins then went high to tip a Cal inbounds pass and drove for a layup make it a 12-point. And when the Notre Dame star went hard to the basket on another break attempt, she got knocked to the floor by Clarendon.
And after officials reviewed the video it was ruled a flagrant. Diggins hit one of two free throws, Notre Dame retained possession and McBride hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 54-37 with 12:17 left.
Cal freshman Brittany Boyd, one of the stars in the Golden Bears' opening-round win over Iowa, picked up her third foul early in the second half and then her fourth about 11 and a half minutes left. She fouled out with 2:53 to go, scoring nine points in 22 minutes.