Feb. 8, 2009
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) –Struggling No. 19/16 Notre Dame came up with big defensive plays and just enough offense down the stretch to beat 25th-ranked DePaul.
Becca Bruszewski hit a 12-foot baseline jumper with 50 seconds left and added a free throw with 3 seconds left to help lead Notre Dame to a 62-59 victory Sunday, just the third win in the last seven games for the Irish.
“I was just thrilled to get a win today over a great team,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We haven’t been playing as well as we’ve wanted defensively and I thought we did a great job of guarding them much better the second half.”
The Irish (17-5, 6-4 Big East) went nearly six minutes without a basket before Melissa Lechlitner, who finished with 13 points, hit a 12-foot jumper to give the Irish a 54-53 lead. After Deirdre Naughton tied the game at 54 with a free throw, Natasha Williams scored inside to give DePaul (18-6, 6-4) a two-point lead.
But Lechlitner tied it and Bruszewski put the Irish ahead to stay with 50 seconds left. The Irish made four of six free throws down the stretch to hang on. Bruszewski finished with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for her first career double-double.
“I was just attacking, getting boards,” Bruszewski said.
Ashley Barlow matched her season-high with 19 points to lead the Irish,
Natasha Williams led DePaul with 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Blue Demons’ five-game winning streak ended. China Threatt, who had 11 points, had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer but her 3-pointer bounced high off the back of the rim and fell to the floor.
“She got a great, great look,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “That ball missed by an inch.”
The Irish easily beat DePaul 86-62 on Jan. 6, but the game Sunday didn’t resemble that game at all. It was close throughout after the Irish briefly opened a 12-point lead in the first half.
Bruno said the Blue Demons knew they would play better against the Irish this time.
“After Notre Dame took us to school on Jan. 6 this team has just responded with some positive basketball since then. I’m really proud of our team bouncing back after that really tough night in Chicago,” he said.
A crowd of 10,011, the ninth largest in school history, was on hand for the game that was part of the “The Pink Zone” program aimed to helping to raise awareness for breast cancer. Notre Dame wore uniforms with pink trim and the officials used pink whistles.
McGraw, whose mother Anne O’Brien is a breast cancer survivor, said seeing so many fans wearing pink at the game and seeing so many breast cancer survivors in attendance was touching.
“When I came in and saw the pink in the arena I took a deep breath and it really made me appreciate everything those women have gone through,” she said. “It was kind of a great feeling to go out there and play hard and know we can honor them by doing that.”
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 5-1 this season against ranked opponents (3-0 at home) … the Irish sweep the season series from DePaul, winning twice in the same season over the Blue Demons for the first time since the 1985-86 season, when Notre Dame took both North Star Conference meetings with DePaul (55-53 on Jan. 26, 1986, at the Joyce Center; 73-58 on Feb. 23, 1986, in Chicago) … the Blue Demons still lead the all-time series with Notre Dame, 18-14, although the Irish posted their third consecutive win over DePaul, matching their longest streak in the 32-game series (ND also won the second matchup in 1984-85 before the previously-noted 1985-86 season sweep) … the Irish move to 8-6 all-time against the Blue Demons at the Joyce Center and 5-3 in BIG EAST regular-season play … this marked just the second time in the past 13 series games that neither team reached the 70-point mark — last year’s 66-64 Irish win in Chicago was the other low-scoring contest during this span (which dates back to the 1992-93 season) … Notre Dame held DePaul to 59 points, its lowest total in the series since Dec. 31, 2001, when the Irish registered a 79-50 win at the Joyce Center … Notre Dame’s 62 points were the fewest it has scored in the series since Feb. 12, 2006 (a 79-50 DePaul win in Chicago) … the Irish continue their run of success in the month of February, improving to 45-4 (.918) at home in the second month since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96 … Notre Dame is 78-21 (.788) in February games during its BIG EAST membership and 126-36 (.778) in the 22-year Muffet McGraw era, including a 67-10 (.870) home record … Notre Dame held DePaul to a .200 three-point percentage, the lowest by an Irish opponent since Nov. 29, when #24 Michigan State shot 15.4 percent (2-of-13) from distance in a 78-72 Notre Dame win at the Joyce Center … sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski collected her first career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds (previous high was seven rebounds on four occasions, most recently on Jan. 31 vs. Cincinnati at the Joyce Center) … junior guard Ashley Barlow tied her season high with 19 points after reaching that mark in the season’s first two games (at #24/22 LSU, home vs. Evansville) … Barlow is 16 points away from becoming the 24th 1,000-point scorer in Notre Dame women’s basketball history … the Irish drew a crowd of 10,011 for Sunday’s game, the ninth-largest crowd in school history and the third attendance of 10,000 fans or more this season (tying the program record set last year); in fact, Notre Dame has had at least 10,000 fans in the stands for six of its last 22 home games (better than one out of every four) … Sunday was designated as Notre Dame’s WBCA Pink Zone game to promote breast cancer awareness and raise money towards research for a cure to this terrible disease, with proceeds going to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as local charities Women’s Task Force, Secret Sisters’ Society and Young Survivors Group … as a show of thanks for the incredible turnout at Sunday’s game, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program pledged an additional $5,000 to the money already raised through season-long Pink Zone events, with the early totals approaching $38,000 (prior to the completion of a silent auction held at the game, as well as other fund-raising events to be completed in the coming weeks).