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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish get comeback victory

Bill Brink | Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In spite Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw’s emphasis on perimeter defense this season, Notre Dame allowed seven 3-pointers in the first half against South Florida.

McGraw called it inexcusable. The team listened.

“They were jumping up and down, getting on each other, they really bought into it,” she said.

No. 24 Notre Dame battled back from 14 points down in the first half to out-score South Florida 42-27 the second and win, 86-79, in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday. The Irish held the Bulls to 1-of-11 from 3-point range in the second half.

“We just talked about pride in our defense,” McGraw said. “We had to get out and guard the 3-point line, they were really on fire from 3-point range. We were a little bit embarrassed about how they were playing.”

Junior guard Janae Stokes was 4-of-8 from 3-point range in the first half and senior guard Jazmine Sepulveda was 3-of-6. In the second half, however, the Bulls hit only one 3-pointer.

The win moves Notre Dame (18-6, 7-5 Big East) into a tie for fifth place in the conference with DePaul. Because the Irish swept the season series against the Blue Demons, they hold the tiebreaker.

Senior guard Lindsay Schrader went nuts Tuesday – she had 26 points and 11 rebounds.

“She had a mismatch quite frequently at the [small forward] spot,” McGraw said. “They had a guard on her. She got comfortable down there, and they put a bigger kid on her and she scored on her.”

Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski scored 20 points, a career high, and made all eight of her free throws. Junior guard Ashley Barlow had 16 points and eight rebounds and junior guard Melissa Lechlitner added eight points and five assists.

“Barlow carried us in the first half,” McGraw said. “She was doing everything she could.”

McGraw said the older players were the ones energizing the team during halftime.

“I definitely heard Schrader’s voice, Lech I’m sure,” she said.

Notre Dame’s free throw shooting helped it secure the game. Nobody missed a foul shot in the first half, and the team was 19-of-24 in the second half. Lechlitner only had one field goal but made all six of her foul shots.

“We just did the job we had to do at the line,” McGraw said. “We made the easy ones, we didn’t fell any pressure.”

Notre Dame took the lead for good with 2:25 remaining when a technical foul gave the Irish four free throw attempts – they made them all. A Lechlitner jumper and foul shots down the stretch held the lead.

Notre Dame trailed 52-44 at the half, but a 3-pointer from Bruszewski and a layup from Schrader pulled the Irish within two. Freshman forward Erica Solomon’s layup tied the sore at 57 with 13:35 remaining. The teams traded points until the technical foul allowed Notre Dame to tie it up.

The Bulls led 23-11 with 13:00 left in the first half after a 12-2 run that included three 3-pointers. Two free throws from Schrader helped Notre Dame pull to within 10 with 1:33 remaining at the half.