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Ratay sparks decisive 15-0 second-half run for Irish

3/24/2003

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- With little else working, Notre Dame
turned to its best shooter for help and Alicia Ratay delivered.

Ratay scored nine of her 20 points in a 15-0 second-half run
that sent 11th-seeded Notre Dame to a 59-47 victory over Arizona on
Sunday night in first-round East Regional game marked by sloppy
play and worse shooting.

After going scoreless in Notre Dame's previous game, a 50-39
defeat against Villanova in the Big East quarterfinals, Ratay went 3-for-4
from 3-point range and added nine rebounds and four steals.

''She played the most complete game of the season,'' Notre Dame
coach Muffet McGraw said. ''The only offense I wanted to run was
the one that got her the ball. She did it all tonight -- steals,
scoring, rebounding.''

Notre Dame (20-10) frustrated sixth-seeded Arizona and its
6-foot-5 freshman center, Shawntinice Polk, with a collapsing zone
defense and moved into a second-round game Tuesday night against
Kansas State.

Arizona (22-9) shot a season-low 23.3 percent (17-for-73) and
that played right into Notre Dame's hands. The Irish didn't have to
extend their defense and were able to keep two or three defenders
around Polk, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds but was only 4-for-14
from the field.

''I wouldn't say this was the prettiest of games,'' said Arizona
coach Joan Bonvicini, who lost in the first round for the first
time in 14 NCAA Tournament appearances. ''It was pretty much a
defensive game and turnovers definitely hurt us.

''I think particularly from the perimeter we couldn't throw a
pea in the ocean.''

Arizona was 2-for-25 from 3-point range and committed 23
turnovers. Krista Warren led Arizona with 17 points and grabbed 13
rebounds.

Notre Dame was struggling to score and trailed 37-34 with 12
minutes left when Ratay got the Irish going.

She hit a 3-pointer from the left side to tie it, then made a
free throw to put the Irish ahead and the lead grew from there.
Ratay nailed a 3 from the right side, Teresa Borton scored on a
hook in the lane and Ratay sank two free throws.

Two consecutive baskets inside by Courtney LaVere made it 49-37
with 4:48 left and finished the run. Arizona went scoreless for 8½ minutes and never got closer than nine the rest of the way.

LaVere finished with 15 points and was part of the collapsing
defense on Polk.

''Our plan was to double down on her at all times,'' LaVere
said. ''That slowed her down. We were frustrating a lot of their
players, especially Polk on the double-teams.''

Polk was double- and triple-teamed most of the season and still
led Arizona with a 17.5 scoring average. But she was 0-for-6 in the
first half against Notre Dame and didn't get her first basket until
18:17 remained in the game.

''They were a good team, but they weren't doing anything
different,'' Polk said. ''For the most part, I couldn't hit a layup
to save my life.''

Jacqueline Batteast, Notre Dame's scoring leader for the season,
suffered through an even more miserable game than Polk. Batteast
went 1-for-16 and scored just three points.

Arizona had last played March 10 and Notre Dame had been idle
since March 9. The effects of the long layoffs showed as both teams
shot poorly and were careless with the ball.

Much of the game was a series of wild misses from point-blank
range and airballs from the perimeter. Arizona's frustration came
to a head late in the game when Dee-Dee Wheeler, who was 3-for-20,
had to hoist up a 40-footer that fell well short to try to beat the
shot clock.

Notre Dame shot just 19 percent in the first half, yet led 23-21
at halftime. The Irish shot 29 percent for the game and were
outrebounded 52-43.

''It's hard to believe you can win when you give up 52
rebounds,'' McGraw said. ''I don't know how we pulled that off.''