Wednesday, March 21, 2007

North Carolina 60, Notre Dame Women's Basketball 51

Maybe this was how the season was supposed to end. The underdogs had overachieved all season. They pushed the mighty #1 seed to the limits, but in the end the favorites prevailed.
It didn't look like this would be a fair fight. Other than the diminuative Ivory Latta, everyone on the North Carolina squad had a distinct size advantage over their Notre Dame counterpart. Yet this was a very even game for the entire first half. The Irish were able to shut down Latta in the first period, holding her to a single field goal. But the Tar Heels wouldn't be a top seed if they didn't have other weapons, and those weapons made it a game.
Part way into the second half, local girl Charel Allen and senior Tulyah Gaines took their teammates on their shoulders. It seemed like Gaines was able to drive the lane at will. Offensive sets geared around cuts to the basket for easy layups was working to perfection. When Gaines couldn't find anyone with an easy look under the basket, she simply took matters into her own hands, and it seems like everything she threw up went down. Gaines finished with 8 points and 8 assists. Allen, meanwhile, was on a tear. When she wasn't driving for a short jumper, she was hitting money three after money three. Allen finished with 21.
But even as it seemed that the Irish had all the momentum, the tide was starting to turn in favor of the Tar Heels. UNC started using their size advantage, and managed to get both Melissa D'Amico and Erica Williamson in foul trouble. Ivory Latta had a terrible night from the field, but good scorers always find a way to put points on the board. In this case, Latta went to the line 9 times, converting 8 free throws. She had 17.
In the end, Notre Dame didn't have an answer to North Carolina's final run. What they do have, though, is a promising future. While this team will lose the experience of Crystal Erwin and Breona Gray, they will have Allen, Gaines, Ashley Barlow, Melissa D'Amico, Melissa Lechlitner, and Erica Williamson back a year older and wiser, and will see Lindsay Schrader return. The number 8 seed that the Irish received this year may be the worst they see in a while.