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Irish top St. John’s in Big East tourney

Bill Brink | Saturday, March 7, 2009

HARTFORD — An ugly first half gave way to a well-played second half, and Notre Dame got help from sources both likely and improbable.

Freshman guard Natalie Novosel scored 15 points and No. 5-seed Notre Dame outscored No. 13 St. John’s 42-23 in the second half to win 62-45 in the second round of the Big East tournament in Hartford, Conn.

Lindsay Schrader had 16 points and 11 rebounds, her seventh double-double of the season. Her double-double broke Notre Dame’s single-season record for guards. It was also the 11th double-double of her career, tying her for the lead with Niele Ivey.

The Irish (22-7) play No. 4-seed Villanova Sunday at noon on ESPNU.

In her last five games, Novosel scored four, one, two, six and one points. Her scoring explosion helped ignite a 16-2 run in the second half.

“I just took advantage of driving the basket,” said Novosel, who went 6-for-7 from field goal range. “It was open, and I tried to take it to the basket.”

Schrader, who averaged 19.6 points and 9.8 rebounds over the last five games, struggled in the first half, when she hit 2-of-7 field goal attempts. She finished 7-of-13.

“I was getting on the block more,” she said. “I got a lot more opportunities and I was just making them.”

Junior guard Ashley Barlow had seven points and junior guard Melissa Lechlitner had eight. Junior center Erica Williamson had no points on six attempts but pulled down 11 rebounds.

Red Storm freshman forward Da’Shena Stevens scored 12 points and senior guard Kristin Moore had eight.

Notre Dame took a 33-28 lead to start the second half, but a seven-point run capped by senior guard Kelly McManmon’s 3-pointer gave the Red Storm a 35-33 lead with 11:55 remaining.

Then Novosel woke up the Irish offense. Notre Dame broke open a 16-2 run during which Novosel scored seven points to gain a 49-37 lead with 7:14 remaining.

“She gives great energy, drove the ball, did all the things that she’s been doing for us all year long and she kind of broke the game wide open,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.

St. John’s had an 8-2 run to cut the lead to six, but Notre Dame scored 11 unanswered to end the game. One of those baskets was junior guard Ashley Barlow’s 3-pointer from the corner as the shot clock expired, which put Notre Dame ahead by 13 with 3:53 left.

“You play great for 29 seconds and then somebody hits a three and it really deflated them,” McGraw said.

The first half was nothing like the second. Notre Dame’s defense held St. John’s in check for the first 10 minutes of the game. The Red Storm managed only two field goals, took bad shots and couldn’t get offensive rebounds. Notre Dame led 13-4 with 10:44 left in the half.

The Irish were called for four fouls in less than a minute, and two free throws and a jumper from Red Storm junior forward Aricia Mitchell pulled St. John’s within four. Notre Dame led 14-10 with 7:30 left in the half.

From there, Notre Dame could not score. St. John’s went on a 12-6 run to end the first half.

“That was not a very spectator-friendly game in the first half,” McGraw said. “It was awful. The drought was of biblical proportions.”

Freshman forward Erica Solomon left the game midway through the second half because of a tweaked left knee, McGraw said. Solomon hurt the same knee previously, and McGraw said she wasn’t sure whether Solomon could play Sunday. Solomon had seven points and six rebounds Saturday.


The Big East honored four Notre Dame players before the game. Schrader was named to the All-Big East first team, junior guard Ashley Barlow made the second team and Novosel and Solomon made the freshman all-conference team.