Dec. 7, 2008
Watson cut No. 17 Purdue’s lead to two points by making two 3-pointers after the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish went 7 minutes in the first half without a basket, starting the game by making just 3 of 22 shots. Lechlitner then scored 13 of her career-high 19 points in the second half to lead Notre Dame to the 62-51 victory on Sunday.
The Irish (7-0) needed Lechlitner to play well with leading scorer Ashley Barlow missing her second straight game with a concussion.
“I knew coming in I had to step up a little more,” she said.
Lechlitner was 2-of-3 from 3-point range, hit several more jumpers from outside and scored inside as well, driving to the basket when the Boilermakers (5-3) focused more on Notre Dame’s perimeter game.
“I thought Melissa Lechlitner played maybe the best game of her career,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “She was just in command of the game. She was in charge the whole game.”
Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said her team didn’t follow the game plan, leaving Watson open for those key 3s and allowing the Irish to penetrate in the second half.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton led the Boilermakers with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but the Irish outrebounded Purdue 47-35, repeatedly holding them to one shot. The Irish also outscored the Boilermakers 22-18 in the paint to help overcome Notre Dame’s 34.4 percent shooting, its worst performance so far this season.
Watson finished with 13 points and Lindsay Schrader added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish. Lakisha Freeman had 12 points for the Boilermakers.
Notre Dame, which hadn’t trailed by more than three points all season, fell behind 18-9 when FahKara Malone made a pair of free throws with 7:04 left in the first half. That’s when Watson made her 3-pointers, then Schrader tied the score on a 15-foot jumper with 3 minutes left. The Irish led 23-22 at halftime on Watson’s third 3-pointer.
Lechlitner scored seven points during a decisive 14-4 run in the second half, giving the Irish a 41-29 lead on an inside basket with 8:48 left. The Irish extended the lead to 45-32 when Schrader scored on a driving layup.
Purdue used a 6-0 run to close to 45-38 on a jumper by Freeman, but couldn’t get any closer.
Notre Dame, which has beaten three ranked teams, is off to its best start since winning its first seven to open the 2004-05 season. It was the second straight loss for the Boilermakers (5-3) against a ranked team, whose three losses have all come against ranked opponents.
Purdue leads the series 14-8, but the Irish have won four of the last five, including winning three straight in the series for the first time. The Irish also have the biggest win in the series, beating the Boilermakers 68-66 in the 2001 national championship game.
The game Sunday was the sixth sellout in Notre Dame history, although there were at least several hundred no shows after 5 inches of snow fell in the area in the previous 24 hours.