CANCUN, Mexico — Notre Dame stormed all the way back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit to take an early fourth-quarter lead, but still fell, 65-59, to South Dakota State in Cancun Challenge women’s basketball Friday afternoon at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
The Irish dropped to 4-4 with their second loss in less than 24 hours.
That 4-4 record marks the deepest into a season Notre Dame has stood .500 or below since being 4-4 in December 2003.
The Jackrabbits (5-2) were coming off a 61-50 victory over No. 21 South Florida.
Against the Irish, they broke a 50-50 deadlock with a 10-2 spree over a span of three minutes for a 60-52 lead with 2:59 remaining — before ND mounted its second comeback attempt.
Sam Brunelle’s right-corner 3-pointer got the Irish to within 61-59 at 48 seconds to go, but it was also the prized freshman’s only field goal all day, and Notre Dame’s only triple in 17 tries.
Brunelle’s trey attempt that could’ve closed the gap to 63-62 at 26 seconds showing rattled in and out, before South Dakota State stretched out the final margin with free throws.
Freshman forward Tori Nelson led the Jackrabbits with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Junior forwards Paige Burckhard and Myah Selland divided 28 points and 12 rebounds evenly.
That trio, besides combing for 17-of-30 from the field, 8-of-10 at the line and four blocked shots, helped SDSU dominate the Irish on the glass, 53-25, leading to a 10-5 advantage in second-chance points.
Sophomore Katlyn Gilbert paced ND with an efficient 17 points. She was 7-of-11 from the field and 3-of-4 at the line, but was limited to 27 minutes by foul trouble.
Freshman Anaya Peoples scored 15 points, led the Irish with eight rebounds and notched a game-high four steals while logging 39 minutes.
It was Peoples’ second straight strong outing of the Cancun Challenge, following her 19-point, nine-rebound performance in Thursday’s 69-60 loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
Destinee Walker scored 12 points for ND, but was just 4-of-16 from the field, including 0-of-9 from outside the arc.
Brunelle, who joined Gilbert in losing time to foul trouble, finished at seven points — the first non-double-digit scoring game of her Irish career — and two rebounds in 27 minutes. She was 1-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 at the line. She entered the day averaging 14.7 points and 7.7 boards.
Notre Dame trailed by a high of 40-24 three minutes into the second half and was still down 44-30 at just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter before beginning a ferocious charge.
The Irish, fueled in part by a 2-2-1, three-quarter-court press, outscored the Jackrabbits 18-1 over the final four minutes of the third period and initial minute of the fourth for a 48-45 lead.
That lead came on Peoples’ steal, basket and conversion of a free throw upon being fouled on the play.
Once behind for the first time, though, SDSU, responded with the next five points.
Marta Sniezek went coast-to-coast to square the game at 50-50 for the Irish at 7:17 to go, before the Jackrabbits answered with their decisive 10-2 run.
Sniezek, ND’s point guard, finished with five points and just two assists against four turnovers, but again proved adept at coaxing offensive fouls, drawing four on the opposition.
One day after coughing up the ball a season-high 25 times against Florida Gulf Coast, the Irish brought that part of their game back under control with 10. SDSU, meanwhile, overcame committing 22.
ND, however, was forced to play catch-up nearly all day.
The Jackrabbits jumped to leads of 9-0 and 15-2 in the game’s first 6:08 on their way to leading 34-21 by halftime. SDSU hit six of its first eight field-goal tries, and Notre Dame missed its first seven.
The Irish and the Bulls will each be trying to avoid being victims of a three-game Cancun Challenge sweep when they meet at 11 a.m. Saturday.
South Florida (5-3) followed up its loss to the Jackrabbits by falling 81-77 Friday against Florida Gulf Coast (7-1).
S. DAKOTA ST. 65, NOTRE DAME 59
NOTRE DAME (4-4): Brunelle 1-7 4-4 7, Gilbert 7-11 3-4 17, Peoples 6-12 3-6 15, Sniezek 2-3 1-2 5, Walker 4-16 4-6 12, Cosgrove 1-7 1-2 3, Benz 0-0 0-0 0, Cole 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 21-57 16-24 59
S. DAKOTA ST. (5-2): Burckhard 6-7 2-2 14, Nelson 5-15 4-6 15, Selland 6-8 2-2 14, Cascio Jensen 2-6 0-0 5, Irwin 2-8 0-0 4, Theisen 1-5 1-4 3, Bultsma 1-1 0-0 2, Stapleton 2-5 0-0 6, Theuninck 0-5 2-4 2, Totals 25-60 11-18 65.<
Notre Dame 11 10 24 14 — 59
S. Dakota St. 18 16 11 20 — 65
3-Point goals—Notre Dame 1-17 (Brunelle 1-4, Gilbert 0-1, Walker 0-9, Cosgrove 0-2, Cole 0-1), S. Dakota St. 4-25 (Burckhard 0-1, Nelson 1-7, Cascio Jensen 1-4, Irwin 0-3, Stapleton 2-5, Theuninck 0-5). Assists—Notre Dame 8 (Gilbert 2), S. Dakota St. 16 (Selland 7). Fouled Out—S. Dakota St. Cascio Jensen. Rebounds—Notre Dame 25 (Peoples 8), S. Dakota St. 53 (Nelson 13). Total Fouls—Notre Dame 18, S. Dakota St. 21. Technical Fouls—None.A—259.