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Women’s Basketball: Smokin’ aces

Joe Meixell | Thursday, November 20, 2008

When you’re hot, you’re hot, no matter whether the heat has to carry over from the previous season.

Becca Bruszewski scored a career-high 18 points, Ashley Barlow added 19 and Notre Dame beat Evansville 96-61 Wednesday at the Joyce Center.

This game was the third in the last five, dating back to Notre Dame’s 75-62 win over Southern Methodist in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, that Bruszewski has scored at least 16 points.

“I thought Becca came out and shot the ball well to start the game,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

Every player scored for Notre Dame, and five Fighting Irish players scored double figures – guards Melissa Lechlitner and Brittany Mallory had 11 and guard Lindsay Schrader had 12. But the Purple Aces’ turnovers told the story; Evansville gave Notre Dame (2-0) the ball 31 times.

“We were on our heels the whole game,” Evansville coach Misty Murphy said. “That led to 31 turnovers, and that led to the final score.”

McGraw said the team’s defense had not peaked, but that the turnovers were a good sign.

“I’m pretty happy with our assist-to-turnover ratio,” McGraw said.

What bothered McGraw, she said, was the rebounding. Evansville (1-1) out-rebounded Notre Dame 42-36.

“Rebounding was a big disappointment. Coming off the LSU game and out-rebounding a very athletic team and then coming in here tonight and allowing ourselves to get out-rebounded,” McGraw said. “Evansville outworked us. They played hard, they got on the boards, they did everything they needed to do.”

Bruszewski shot 7-for-9 from the field and hit two 3-pointers in the first minutes of the game. Those two attempts equaled her tries from behind the arc last season, when she went 1-for-2.

“I was hitting them in warm-ups, so I thought today would be a good day to try,” Bruszewski said.

Bruszewski’s 3’s came right before a 19-5 run that gave Notre Dame a 27-10 lead with 12:34 left in the first half. Turnovers and fast breaks accounted for many of the points scored in the run. Barlow said turnovers fuel the fast break.

“If you can get up and get quick steals on people and turn it into quick layups without having to set up an offense, that’s what we like to do,” Barlow said.

Thanks in part to a couple buckets from Lechlitner, Notre Dame went on a 15-4 scoring run late in the first half to make the score 42-20 with 5:57 to go.

Evansville struggled to shoot in the first half, making only 35 percent of its field goals. The Aces finished the game 6-for-18 from 3-point range, something McGraw said she wasn’t thrilled about.

“Playing all man-to-man, I thought to give up 18 attempts was a little more than we wanted,” she said.

Bruszewski continued to score in the second half. She made two free throws just into the half, then made a jumper and a layup to put the Irish ahead by 19.

Aces forward Anaris Sickles scored eight of her 10 points in the second half, six of them from a 3-pointer and three foul shots.

Barlow started hitting 3-pointers in the second half. She went 0-for-1 in the first half, but made three after the break, including one right after she entered the game to put Notre Dame ahead 71-47 with 9:22 remaining.

“You just gotta get repetitions at it, and that’s exactly what I did,” she said. I came into the gym and shot multiple times. As long as I step into my shot, it’s alright.

Mallory had a career-high six assists in the game and did not commit a turnover. This was Mallory’s first game of the season – she was suspended from the LSU game because of an incident at an off-campus party.

Guards Ashley Austin and Ashlee Barrett both scored 10 points for the Aces, and Sickles led the team with seven rebounds. McGraw sees the potential in the defense, she said, but the team needs to work to get there.

“I think we came off the LSU game thinking we can be a great defensive team, and we still can be, but we’ve got a lot of work to do before we can be a great defensive team.”