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ND Women’s Basketball: A balanced victory

Jared Jedick | Monday, March 22, 2010

The No. 2-seed Irish used their depth to wear down a spirited Cleveland State team and overcome a 31-point performance by Vikings guard Kailey Klein in an 86-58 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday at the Purcell Pavilion.
“I was really pleased with the second half,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We did a really nice job with the balance of the game. I thought different people stepped up at different times. I thought in the first half we were able to get out to a nice little jump.”
Klein went off on the Irish (28-5) during the first half, scoring 21 of Cleveland State’s 25 points in the period. Klein got the score as close as 29-25 with 1:13 left on the clock before the Irish went on a quick run to stretch things to 34-25 heading into the break.
“I have not seen a player have that kind of half this year, and we have played against some pretty good players,” McGraw said. “We haven’t seen anybody have that kind of performance in a half. She had 21 of their 25 points. She had just a spectacular game and she is a great player.”
Since both teams caught the turnover bug early in the game — the Irish turned the ball over 14 times and Cleveland State (19-14) 24 times — the first team to step up on defense would gain the advantage. Senior guard Ashley Barlow served that role for the Irish.
“Barlow was chasing me all over the floor,” Klein said. “I was coming out expecting that and I just hoped my teammates would hit some shots.”
Barlow helped lead the Irish attack with 13 points, but her ability to shut down Klein in the second half was what really stood out. Klein was only able to add 10 points to her total in the second half after her breakout 21-point first half.
“In the first half, Klein was constantly moving and we were not quite sure where she was,” Barlow said. “In the second half, we tried to locate her and know where she was on the floor at all times. I tried to not let her touch the ball at all and tried hard to deny her in the second half.”
Klein broke down and cried after the game knowing that she was able to leave such a strong performance on the floor at a place she idolized as a child and had always wanted to play after growing up in Cherry, Ill.
“I really just went out there and gave it all I could. Notre Dame was my idol growing up, so I wanted to come in here and prove myself on the floor I always wanted to play on,” she said.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had a somewhat quiet night with seven points and five turnovers. Despite the shaky performance, McGraw wanted to emphasize the positives in Diggins’ game: her team-leading eight assists and seven rebounds.
“I think a lot of times players look at their offense, and she looks at her turnovers, which I think indicates that she was a little nervous to start the game,” McGraw said. “I think after getting one [Tournament] game under her belt, she is going to be ready for Tuesday.”
Against a small Cleveland State team, Notre Dame exploited the inside post game and got the ball inside. Junior forward Becca Bruszewski came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 14 points, while senior center Erica Williamson and junior forward Devereaux Peters added eight and 12 points, respectively.
“We had a height advantage,” McGraw said. “They came in a little bigger in the first half when Devereaux Peters was in foul trouble, but in the second half I thought we did a better job of getting the ball down to [senior forward] Lindsay Schrader, Erica Williamson, Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux [Peters]. We just really wanted to get them some touches.”
Now that the Irish have advanced to the second round, they will take on No. 10-seed Vermont (27-6), which pulled an upset 64-55 win over No. 7-seed Wisconsin in the game just before Notre Dame’s.
The Irish will tip off with Vermont Tuesday in the Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m.