FREEPORT, Bahamas - Natalie Novosel never had a second thought about using the glass on her shot as the clock ran down with the score tied in a top 10 college women's basketball showdown between Notre Dame and Duke.
And as Novosel's shot at the buzzer banked off the glass and through the hoop, the Fighting Irish had completed one of the more remarkable victories in the storied program's history.
Novosel banked in a runner from the free-throw line at the buzzer, lifting No. 4 Notre Dame to an amazing 56-54 victory over No. 7 Duke as the Irish erased an 18-point second half deficit. Notre Dame is 5-1 and Duke 4-1.
Novosel, who was 1-of-10 shooting in the first half, finished with 15 points. She scored 12 of her points in the second half on 5-of-10 shooting, and was named the MVP for the Freeport Division of the Junkanoo Jam.
Sklyar Diggins led Notre Dame with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Kayla McBride scored 12 points.
Elizabeth Williams led Duke with 16 points.
Duke led 54-51 with 1:25 left in the game.
McBride hit one of two free throws with 42 seconds left to cut the Duke lead to 54-52.
Diggins rebounded a Duke miss and drove coast-to-coast for a layup that tied the score at 54 with 13 seconds left.
Duke’s Shay Selby missed a shot with three seconds left, and the Irish rebounded. With Diggins and McBride covered, Natalie Achonwa fired a half-court pass to Novosel, who barely stayed inbounds on the sidecourt making the catch. Novosel then drove to the free-throw line and banked in the winner.
"This is unbelievable," said Novosel, who was mobbed by her teammates. "It’s surreal. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling.
"I almost fell out of bounds. The ball was supposed to go to the middle. I caught the ball and I had my eye on the rim and I knew that’s where I was going. I wasn’t even trying to get contact for a foul. Just focused on the rim and shot it.’’
The Irish outscored Duke, 36-18, in the second half. and trailed, 36-20 at halftime. The comeback ties the school record for the biggest comeback in women’s basketball. Notre Dame wiped out an 18-point second-half deficit in a 59-57 victory at Vanderbilt in 2008.
"This is unbelievable," McGraw said. "We played so poorly in the first half. We just couldn’t do anything right at either end. We didn’t rebound. We couldn’t make a shot. And then at halftime, we just said, ‘Hey, we’re not playing our game.’ And they decided they were going to come out and play a little better defense. Then we got some easy baskets because of that.
"This is such a huge lift for us, because, I know we were feeling really down on ourselves at halftime, wondering what happened. Then we were able to come together and play as a team. I thought Fraderica Miller was a catalyst. Her defense was incredible. Brittany Mallory made some big defensive stops. Everybody contributed."
The Blue Devils scored the first basket of the second half, and then the Irish unleashed their fury.
Notre Dame reeled off a 15-1 run to close to four points, 39-35, with 13:51 left in the game.
Novosel pulled the Irish within two points, 41-39, with a baseline drive for a basket as she was fouled with 12:04 left in the game.
Novosel knotted the score at 41 with 9:23 left in the game with a running put-back of a McBride miss, capping a 21-3 Irish run that erased an 18-point deficit. During the Irish run, Duke was 0-of-14 with seven turnovers and 3-of-4 free throws.
Notre Dame pulled ahead 47-45 with 5:57 left on a stunning play. Devereaux Peters blocked a driving Chloe Wells. Diggins grabbed the rebound and fired a length of the court pass to a sprinting Kayla McBride, who drove in for the layup.
Richa Jackson hit one of two free throws to give Duke a 54-51 lead with 1:25 left when the Irish magic struck.
"Selby’s shot was not what we wanted," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said of the Blue Devils’ last possession. "We wanted a timeout if I could get officials and point guards looking. That was a rushed shot. There was plenty of time on the clock. We don’t have fifth-year seniors on our team. We have a lot of young players. At times, we did some young things. We’ll learn, though. This is a great lesson.
"We didn’t attack as much in the second half. Obviously they picked up the aggression. It was two different halves, almost the same exact score each half. We did some great things the first half, and they did better things in the second half. A few rebounds here or there, but that’s the way the game goes. You have to be ready."
Duke took advantage of a cold-shooting Irish offense for a 36-20 halftime lead. The Irish hit only 6-of-26 shots in the first half (23 percent). Duke dominated the boards early, 25-17, in the first 20 minutes.
Notre Dame hit one of its first 15 shots but trailed only 15-9 when Mallory broke the ice with a 3-pointer at the 8:52 mark of the first half.
DUKE (54): Peters 3-6 2-2 8, Williams 5-11 6-11 16, Selby 1-5 2-2 4, Wells 0-6 0-0 0, Gray 4-14 2-2 11, Jackson 0-5 3-4 3, Scheer 0-0 0-0 0, Liston 2-5 0-0 5, Vernerey 3-4 1-3 7. Totals 18-56 16-24 54.
NOTRE DAME (56): Devereaux Peters 1-2 2-2 4, Skylar Diggins 5-12 8-10 19, Natalie Novosel 6-20 2-5 15, Brittany Mallory 2-7 1-2 6, Kayla McBride 4-9 4-5 12, Natalie Achonwa 0-3 0-1 0, Fraderica Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Kaila Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Wright 0-2 0-1 0, Ariel Braker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-55 17-26 56.
Halftime — Duke 36-20. 3-Point Goals — Duke 2-10 (Liston 1-3, Gray 1-5, Selby 0-1, Peters 0-1), Notre Dame 3-12 (Novosel 1-3, Diggins 1-3, Mallory 1-4, McBride 0-2). Fouled Out — Peters. Rebounds — Duke 47 (Williams 13), Notre Dame 39 (Diggins 8). Assists — Duke 7 (Gray, Williams 2), Notre Dame 5 (Diggins 3). Total Fouls — Duke 22, Notre Dame 21. A — 435.