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Freshman leads Irish over Purdue

Joe Meixell | Monday, December 8, 2008

Freshman forward Kellie Watson said she didn’t want to play like a freshman when she stepped on the court against Purdue.

She could have fooled the sold-out Joyce Center.

Her three 3-pointers near the end of the first half, two of them in a 25-second span, gave the Irish a halftime lead they would not relinquish in their 62-51 win over the Boilermakers in the Joyce Center Sunday.

The Irish offense, suffering from the absence of Ashley Barlow, hit just 3-of-22 shots before Watson’s 3s.

“I thought Kellie was maybe the player of the game,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said the game plan was to keep Watson from getting an open shot.

“We were not supposed to help off of her at all,” Versyp said.

Watson finished with 13 points. Guard Lindsay Schrader had her second straight double-double, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Guard Melissa Lechlitner had a career-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. While always in the driver’s seat of the offense, she asserted herself in the paint and created shots for herself in the second half.

“I thought Melissa played maybe the best game of her career,” McGraw said. “She was in command of the game.”

Lechlitner had 11 of her 19 points in the second half.

“She just keeps getting better and better and better as she’s been here,” Versyp said of Lechlitner.

Boilermakers forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton led Purdue with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but she made only 8-of-19 field goal attempts. Forward Lakisha Freeman added 12 points.

Notre Dame held its lead after halftime, but again the offense struggled. Almost three minutes passed after Lechlitner’s 3-pointer at 16:33 before the Irish scored again, but once they did, they didn’t stop. Lech’s 3 started a 14-4 run that put Notre Dame ahead 41-27 with 8:48 to go.

At that point, Lechlitner took over. She drove the lane for a layup on a give-and-go to Schrader, then hit a jumper with the shot clock winding down. She hit another jumper at the top of the lane to put Notre Dame ahead 49-40 with 2:59 to go.

“Since Barlow was out I knew coming in I had to take a little more offensive mindset,” Lechlitner said.

The Purdue zone defense spread out to cover the outside, Lechlitner said, which opens the middle of the floor for drives to the basket.

Purdue started pressing the Irish in the final 10 minutes and produced turnovers, but the Irish defense kept them from capitalizing. Lechlitner stole the ball as Purdue ran the fast break after one turnover, and Watson blocked a shot after another steal.

The press came back to bite the Boilers with two minutes remaining. Williamson rebounded a missed Purdue shot and started a passing chain that snaked through the press and found Schrader by herself under the basket for an open layup to put the Irish ahead 53-42.

Foul trouble hurt the Irish in the second half. Bruszewski fouled out with 2:55 remaining and Williamson picked up her fourth foul with four minutes to go.

Foul trouble hampered the Boilermakers down the stretch as well. Malone fouled out with 1:37 remaining and center Danielle Campbell picked up her fourth with two minutes to go. Malone’s fifth foul also put the Irish in the double bonus.

The first half started slowly for both teams, but the Boilers took a 12-5 lead with 12:13 left in the first half. After three offensive rebounds and three missed put-back attempts, Schrader put the fourth home, and two free throws from Novosel brought the Irish within three. Notre Dame out-rebounded Purdue 47-35 and had 17 offensive rebounds.

“We knew this game would be won on the boards,” McGraw said.

Purdue got an easy layup and a jump shot from forward Natasha Bogdanova. Two free throws from guard FahKara Malone put Purdue up by nine with 7:04 to go in the first half.

Then Watson got hot from long distance, and the Irish pulled ahead by one at the half.


uGuard Ashley Barlow did not play because of a concussion she suffered in the Michigan State game. McGraw said she was day-to-day.