7:00 PM ET, January 26, 2005
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- St. John's played Notre Dame tougher than ever. It still wasn't enough.Crystal Erwin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Megan Duffy added 14 points and 10 assists, leading the Irish (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) to a 72-65 victory over St. John's on Wednesday night. The Irish improved to 15-0 all time against St. John's (14-4, 3-4), but the seven-point margin of defeat was the closest ever for the Red Storm. Twice before they had lost by 13. "We've made such progress, but we really want to win a game like this," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "When you lose a game like this it's tough to say, 'You gave a great effort' because everyone is disappointed." Jacqueline Batteast added 10 points and 10 rebounds, giving the Irish (17-3, 5-2 Big East) three players with double-doubles for the first time since they accomplished the feat against Michigan State in 1995. Kia Wright led St. John's with 23 points, including 17 in the first half, and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double. "She was unstoppable in the first half," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We didn't have anyone who could guard her." Tara Walker had 16 points for St. John's and Greeba Barlow added 12. The double-doubles were firsts for Erwin and Duffy, while Batteast moved alone into second place on Notre Dame's career list with 37, including five this season. Batteast also had four blocked shots. Teresa Borton added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. The Irish started the game with little intensity -- just as they had before beating then-No. 6 Rutgers on Sunday -- falling behind by eight points and trailing 35-31 at halftime. "I think we came out flat today. I don't know why," McGraw said. "Coming off a good win took a lot of our energy. We all knew we should have won this game, and thought (St. John's) knew it too. The problem was they didn't." The Irish came out more aggressive in the second half, using a 19-4 run early in the second half to take control. Duffy started the run with a 3-pointer, but the key was improved defense. The Irish held St. John's to 2-of-19 shooting during the stretch, forcing one shot clock violation and four turnovers. The Irish outplayed St. John's inside in the second half, outscoring the Red Storm 22-14 and winning the rebounding battle 26-21. "We focus as a team on rebounding and that's what I focus on," Erwin said. "That's what the team needs in order to win."