ND Women’s Basketball: Irish struggle early in blowout of Providence
Joe Meixell | Thursday, January 31, 2008
It wasn’t pretty, and it came against a team with only three bench players, but it was a win nonetheless.
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader had 15 points and nine rebounds, and No. 20 Notre Dame overcame a stagnant first eight minutes to beat Providence 85-54 Wednesday. The Irish forced 29 turnovers in the win.
Despite a sluggish start, five Irish players scored in double figures, the sixth time the team has reached that milestone this season.
Senior guard Charel Allen had 12 points, six rebounds and six steals, and backcourt classmate Tulyah Gaines added 10 points and four takeaways. Freshman forward Devereaux Peters and sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Lechlitner dominated Providence’s injury-depleted guards. She ran around and shot over them on offense and shut them down on defense, especially in the full-court press.
“Their zone and man-to-man was pretty spread out, so they gave you a little more open in the middle,” Lechlitner said. “And then in transition is when I just kind of try to do a little more for myself, either finding other people or finding my pull up jumper.”
Although it managed 85 points, Notre Dame shot only 43 percent from the field – and only 36 percent in the first half. The Irish forgot where they were at the start of the game; they looked inept and sluggish and threw passes away. But Gaines grabbed two quick steals, Lechlitner hit a three in the corner and Peters stole the inbounds pass and made the easy layup to give Notre Dame an 11-10 lead with 11:48 left in the half.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw said there was a distinct increase in team energy when Peters came off the bench.
“She brings instant energy. She comes in games and there is a huge difference in how we’re playing,” McGraw said.
Gaines’ steals also helped to bring the team out of its funk.
“[Gaines] really was a spark defensively, especially early on,” McGraw said. “I think she just got that emotion going, which maybe motivated everybody else.”
The Irish went on an 11-2 run to make the score 25-13 with 6:48 remaining.
Notre Dame led 36-19 at halftime, holding the Friars to the lowest first-half total for an opponent since Michigan scored 18 on Dec. 2. Peters spearheaded the potent Irish full-court press, which thwarted the Friars’ offensive opportunities.
“Once they started pressing, it changed the game,” Friars coach Phil Seymore said. “It changed our approach as to how we attacked offensively.”
In the second half, however, the defense disintegrated. Notre Dame gave up 35 points in the final 20 minutes and allowed Providence to shoot 12-of-26 from the field.
“The defense in the second half was as bad as we’ve played all year,” McGraw said. “When they weren’t turning the ball over, they were scoring.”
Although the Irish widened their lead in the second half, their defense lacked intensity and lost focus near the end of the game.
“Our post defense was particularly bad,” McGraw said. “And we just quit playing at the end. They were just trying to get the ball back to try to score.”
Providence (11-9, 1-6 Big East) has 14 players on its roster, but only eight traveled to the game. Because Friars freshman guard Trinity Hull, who had eight points on 2-for-5 shooting, has a stress fracture, Seymore had to practice with his team so there would be enough players.
“You should have seen me, I was sweating, man, it was pretty bad,” he said, laughing.
While McGraw had her gripes about the game, she was happy with the conference win.
“Every win is really critical for us right now,” she said. “We’re thinking, ‘This is the game we have to win to get a bye in the first round of the big east tournament.’ We’ve got a brutal schedule, and we’ve got to be ready for it. And tonight we weren’t ready.”
u Notre Dame will participate in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association’s “Think Pink” initiative during their Feb. 10 game against No. 14 Pittsburgh in the Joyce Center. The players will wear pink warm-up shirts and shoelaces for the game, which will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. The first 750 fans will receive a “Think Pink” T-shirt.
In addition, McGraw has pledged to donate $10 for each rebound her team grabs to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
u Allen was named a mid-season candidate for the John R. Wooden Award, given annually to the national player of the year. The Big East led all conferences with six players on the 20-player list.