SHINNSTON, W.Va. — Lincoln’s performance in Friday’s home game against Notre Dame won’t go down as one of the Cougars’ more aesthetically pleasing efforts in coach Rob Hawkins’ tenure.
However, following a 38-34 victory over the Irish, the sluggishness displayed by Lincoln in its first game in a week did little to discourage Hawkins, who saw his team win its fifth straight game and improve to 5-1 overall.
“It was a sloppy game and a slower pace than what we wanted,” Hawkins said. “When we can’t score, it’s hard to get in the press, and they’re really patient on offense. At times we did a good job, but we didn’t attack the way we should.
“I don’t think we played with enough confidence and when you play passive, Notre Dame is going to take advantage of it. They’re really scrappy and very good at what they do. Give them a ton of credit for making the game the way it was.”
The difference in the outcome was the Irish not scoring over the game’s final 5:32. Taylor Martino made 1-of-2 free throws to break a 33-all tie and put Notre Dame (7-2) on top, but after Hannah Ferris made 1-of-2 from the foul line to knot it at 34, the Cougars went on top for good when Ferris converted a layup off a steal moments later.
Brynne Williams scored inside with 1:02 remaining to stretch the Lincoln lead to four points and when Martino missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 10 seconds left, the outcome was sealed.
With the exception of the final five-plus minutes in the contest, the Cougars could also largely attribute the victory to their strong start. Early 3-pointers by Williams and Ferris helped Lincoln build an 8-1 lead at the 3:32 mark of the opening quarter.
The advantage grew to 10-1 following a Victoria Sturm layup, but Martino scored the final eight points of the quarter, including two 3s, to bring the Irish to within one point.
Martino scored all nine of her team’s points in the opening quarter, and not until Emilee Henderson made 1-of-2 free throws 4:19 before halftime did another Notre Dame player get on the board. By that time, the Irish trailed 19-10 after Katie Martin made consecutive field goals to key a 9-0 Cougars’ run over the first few minutes of the second quarter.
An Allison Rockwell trey gave the Cougars a 26-16 lead, but Amelia Angotti answered with a 3 to send the Irish into halftime down by seven.
“We got off to a slow start and we weren’t playing hard enough,” Irish coach Bob Martino said. “We’re not good enough to just play with average effort. When we play with a lot of effort, we’re a good team.”
But Angotti and Henderson each made a 3 within the first two minutes of the third quarter to give the Irish their first lead of the contest at 27-26.
Lincoln struggled mightily on the offensive end for most of the second half, but Williams made a layup to break a 29-all tie and send the Cougars into the fourth quarter with a two-point lead.
Sturm started the fourth quarter scoring with a jumper, but ND scored the next five points, with Martino accounting for four, to take its second lead of the game.
Martino led all players with 15 points and was the game’s only double figure scorer, while Angotti had eight points and six rebounds. Although the Irish made only 11-of-43 field goals and were out-rebounded 34-23, they hung tough thanks in large part to forcing 18 Lincoln turnovers with an effective 1-3-1 zone.
“We did not attack the zone the way we needed to and they did a good job of taking away angles so we couldn’t throw it to the post,” Hawkins said. “We wanted to take advantage of size and we had a hard time getting it down on the blocks because they were taking away our passing angles. They forced the ball so far outside that we couldn’t get it there.
“A lot of it was them but as far as attacking gaps in that defense, that’s on us.”
Williams finished with nine points and nine rebounds, while Martin and Rockwell each added eight points and six boards.