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Women’s Basketball: Irish win in Carrier Dome

Ken Fowler | Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The Irish may have turned the corner.

Notre Dame (13-7, 4-5 Big East) topped Syracuse (9-12, 2-8) in the two teams’ first-ever meeting in the Carrier Dome Tuesday night, 67-55, moving the Irish to just one game under .500 in Big East play.

“I think we were desperate [to get a win] at this point in the season,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said after the game. “We needed it badly.”

Coming off a blowout loss to Rutgers and an overtime defeat at the hands of South Florida in the past week, Notre Dame rebounded behind the strong play of a veteran and a rookie.

Senior forward Courtney LaVere started for the Irish and scored 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader was even more prolific, hitting 9-of-19 from the floor and 6-of-10 from the free throw line for 24 points.

“She was really aggressive offensively,” McGraw said of Schrader. “I thought she did a really good job just looking for her shot and being able to score.”

Schrader added eight rebounds and two steals in the winning effort.

The Irish outscored the Orange 19-7 in the game’s final 9:30 to make an otherwise close contest look like a blowout. Schrader scored eight of Notre Dame’s final 19 points during the run, and she helped Notre Dame control the ball with a bevy of offensive and defensive rebounds during that time.

The teams battled on the perimeter and in the paint all game, and Syracuse outrebounded Notre Dame, 40-35.

“I was a little disappointed in our rebounding,” McGraw said. “[Junior forward] Crystal [Erwin] had eight rebounds but she could have had a little more. Overall that whole back line could have played better on the rebounding end.”

Notre Dame was successful enough, however, to pull away at the end.

Associate head coach Coquese Washington said the Irish defense, especially in the second half, was the key to the victory.

“We tried to mix up our defenses” to neutralize Syracuse guard Jenny Eckhart, Washington said in a radio interview. “We were able to keep her off balance.”

Lavere was a large part of that strong defensive performance. On the heels of a six-point performance against South Florida Saturday, she had four rebounds to go along with her 14 points, and she added three blocks in 27 minutes of action.

In a radio interview after the game, LaVere called the game one of her best of the season.

“I’d do anything to make the team win,” she said. “Right now, I just want to end the Big East [season] on a high note.”

McGraw said it was crucial for LaVere to play well to prove to other teams that the Irish can score, even when standout point guard Megan Duffy is held in check.

“It’s really important [for other players to score] because every team is focusing on Megan,” McGraw said. “Courtney finally stepped up to give us more confidence that we don’t need Megan to score to win.”

Both teams had trouble from the floor early in the game, and neither Syracuse nor Notre Dame was able to capitalize on the other’s mistakes. Each squad led by four at one point in the first half, but neither could extend the lead any further than that.

In all, there were eight ties in the first 20 minutes, and only two free throws by Tracy Harbut with nine seconds left in the period gave Syracuse a 27-25 lead at the half.