12:00 PM ET, January 3, 2009
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. -- Ashley Barlow scored 14 points, including a clutch jumper with 90 seconds left, leading Notre Dame (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) to a 66-60 victory over Seton Hall in the Big East Conference opener for both schools Saturday.The win was the fifth straight for the Fighting Irish (12-1) and the third straight on the road. Seton Hall, off to its best start since the 1994-95 season, dropped to 11-2 overall. Notre Dame scored the first two points of the game and never trailed, surviving a few late scares to come away with the victory. After trailing by as many as 12 in the second half, the Pirates managed to cut the lead to 56-55 with 2:28 left on a 3-point play from Ebonie Williams, who led all scorers with 18 points. The Pirates never got any closer. "If we would have gained the lead, we would have kept it," Williams said. "It's disappointing to come this close and lose." With Notre Dame holding a 58-56 lead and the shot clock winding down, Barlow connected on a jumper that pushed the lead to 60-56 with 1:30 remaining. Williams nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 60-59 with 1:01 left, but Melissa Lechlitner made a fall-away jumper from behind the free throw line that gave Notre Dame a 62-59 lead with 43 seconds left. Barlow then added two free throws with 22 seconds left to seal the victory. "We kept our composure at the end of the game," said senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who added 11 points and came up with a rebound and steal in the closing minutes. "We just knew that we didn't want to lose. I think keeping the lead was so big, especially on the road. We were able to keep momentum. It definitely was the key, never giving up the lead." Besides Barlow and Schrader, Notre Dame got 13 points from freshman forward Erica Solomon off the bench. "We were always in good shape as long as we had the lead," said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. "We got some huge plays and made some big shots down the stretch. Our seniors set the tone for the young kids. We really showed some confidence down the stretch." Nicole Emery had 15 points for Seton Hall and Noteisha Womack, the nation's leading rebounder at 13.9 per contest, had 11 points and 13 boards for the Pirates, who fell to 8-105 overall against schools ranked in the Top 25. Notre Dame has won the last three meetings between the schools and has a 17-4 series lead. Despite the loss, Seton Hall coach Phyllis Mangina remained upbeat. "We had our opportunities and had our chances," she said. "It's disappointing that we lost, but I think we're good enough to be there all year. We're for real and ready to play. I have great confidence in our team and I'm pleased where we're at."