Notre Dame gets 14th win in 16 games

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Notre Dame has long preferred the physical, scrappy style of basketball necessary to survive in the Big East Conference, and UC Santa Barbara played right along.

Megan Duffy scored 18 points with seven free throws in the final minute and the fourth-seeded Fighting Irish bounced back from a semifinal loss to Connecticut in their conference tournament by beating the feisty Gauchos 61-51 in the first round of the Tempe Regional on Saturday.

In a matchup of two NCAA Tournament-tested programs, Notre Dame used a big second half to advance to the second round Monday night against No. 5 Arizona State, an 87-65 winner over Eastern Kentucky earlier Saturday.

"We kept our poise a little more," Duffy said of the focus after halftime. "We were just trying to find a feel for the defense. I think we settled down. We wanted to play as hard as we could to see what happened, maybe attack the boards a little more and play with more confidence."

Breona Gray and Courtney LaVere added 10 points apiece for Notre Dame (27-5), which began the school's 10th straight NCAA Tournament by winning for the 14th time in 16 games.

"Santa Barbara is a great team," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "They should have been seeded higher."

Mia Fisher scored 18 points for No. 13 UCSB (21-9), which didn't get any other players in double figures in the school's ninth straight NCAA Tournament. The loss snapped the Gauchos' winning streak at 10 games.

Fisher was asked to compare her conference to the physical play of the Big East.

"It wasn't a huge difference," she said. "It was a bit more than the Big West, but it wasn't more than we could handle."

The teams, with a combined 11 players 6-foot-1 or taller, banged under the basket all afternoon -- neither ready to make a first-round exit after both reached the round of 16 last season.

And, fittingly, outside the Save Mart Center a tornado warning was issued for the Fresno area.

Notre Dame began the second half with 6-1 spurt and didn't allow the Gauchos a field goal until Jessica Wilson's basket at 15:38, but UCSB rallied. Brandy Richardson scored with 3:10 left to pull the Gauchos within 50-46.

Gauchos forward Kristen Mann, ranked 12th nationally with a 19.9 scoring average, swished a shot on a one-handed fling at 1:52 but was called for traveling. And Duffy hit on the other end moments later.

Mann struggled against Notre Dame's stingy zone defense and rarely took an uncontested shot. She finished with seven points on 2-for-14 shooting, eight rebounds and seven turnovers.

"They did a good job of double-teaming me," she said. "It just wasn't my night."

Notre Dame leading scorer Jacqueline Batteast also had problems, getting eight points on 4-of-14 shooting and 10 rebounds.

The recruit who got away from UCSB helped eliminate the Gauchos, who had won 16 of their last 17. LaVere grew up near the UCSB campus in Ventura, Calif., and chose South Bend over staying close to home. She also contributed seven rebounds and two assists.

Moments after 6-foot-6 Kate Bauman capped a 10-2 first-half UCSB run with a three-point play, she was hit with a technical foul for throwing an elbow at Crystal Irwin. Then less than a minute later on the other end, Irwin hammered Fisher.

The Irish led 31-28 at the break.

Karena Bonds, the cousin of San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, went 0-for-4 with no points for the Gauchos.

Notre Dame, which shot 42.3 percent, held UCSB to 26.7 percent in the second half (8-for-30) and outrebounded the Gauchos 38-34.

Notre Dame also won the only other meeting between the schools, 86-75 in 1997.