Skylar Diggins

#4 Irish Pull Away From Louisville, 78-60

Jan. 19, 2010

Box Score Get Acrobat Reader | Box Score | AP Photo Gallery media-icon-photogallery.gif


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw worried how her team would react after the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish were blown out by top-ranked Connecticut on Saturday.

Fifteen minutes into Tuesday night’s game against Louisville, McGraw had her answer. And it wasn’t good. Notre Dame trailed by 12 and didn’t exactly appear to be in a rush to make up the deficit.

“We definitely looked hungover,” McGraw said.

The Irish found the cure in the second half, upping their intensity on both ends of the floor to wear down the Cardinals for a 78-60 victory.

Skylar Diggins scored 20 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures as the Irish pulled away over the final 20 minutes to give McGraw her 600th career victory.

“I think our confidence was a little down after the (UConn) game,” said Lindsay Schrader, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. “I definitely think this will help. We just have to go into games with a chip on our shoulder and tell ourselves we are good.”

Ashley Barlow added 18 points and Melissa Lechlitner chipped in 14 for the Irish (16-1, 3-1 BIG EAST), who forced Louisville into 20 turnovers and held the Cardinals without a field goal for more than eight minutes in the second half.

Monique Reid led Louisville (10-8, 2-3) with 23 points and nine rebounds, but the Cardinals shot just 37 percent in the second half and had trouble holding onto the ball, a problem they have been unable to shake this season.

“It’s the same old, same old,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.

The Cardinals entered the game averaging 23 turnovers a game, worst in the BIG EAST. Things appeared to be getting better early against the Irish.

With walk-on freshman point guard Shelby Harper running things, Louisville played arguably its best 15 minutes of the season to open a 33-21 lead.

“They’re kind of like a tease sometimes,” Walz said. “They’ll tease me with how they play.”

Harper was forced into action this year after injuries ravaged Louisville’s backcourt, part of a nightmarish follow-up to their breakthrough season last spring when the Cardinals made it to the national championship game.

Finding consistency has been a struggle, and the team was involved in ugly pregame fight with Georgetown last Saturday.

Walz hasn’t taken any disciplinary action yet, saying he was still reviewing the tape.

Still, the Cardinals came out firing, the kind of scenario the Irish were trying to avoid three days after falling behind UConn by 22 in the first half.

Yet the Irish steadied themselves with a 16-4 run to end the half to tie the game at 37 at the break as Louisville’s offense broke down when Harper went to the bench with three fouls.

The Cardinals briefly led by five in the second half before running out of gas while the Irish came to life behind Diggins, who scored 15 points in the second half.

“Coach preaches attacking,” Diggins said. “My teammates were finding me and I was just making the open shot. I was just trying to push the ball and keep going.”

While the Irish surged, the Cardinals stalled.

Gwen Rucker hit a layup to give Louisville a 46-43 lead with 16:50 to go, but the Cardinals wouldn’t score again until Reid converted a three-point play with 8:14 remaining.

By then Notre Dame had reeled off 13 straight points and the undermanned Cardinals couldn’t keep pace. Reid, who was brilliant in the first half, made just 2 of 8 shots in the second half.

The Irish had no such problems. Executing crisply in the halfcourt, Notre Dame found easy baskets for Schrader, Diggins and Lechlitner.

The lead ballooned to 20 in the final minutes, allowing McGraw to celebrate her milestone win.

She is the 19th women’s coach to reach the 600-victory plateau and the 10th-fastest to hit the mark. She has collected 512 of those wins with the Irish. The first 88 victories of her career came while she coached Lehigh.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw becomes the 19th NCAA Division I coach to record 600 career wins, and ties former Saint Peter’s coach Mike Granelli for 10th on the list of fastest D-I coaches to 600 victories (both McGraw and Granelli hit the mark in game #839) McGraw now has a career record of 600-239 (.715) in her 28th season as a collegiate coach, including a 512-198 (.721) record in 23 years at Notre Dame … the Fighting Irish now are 53-14 (.791) in “bounce back” games (first after a double-digit loss) since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, with a 78-31 (.716) record in “bounce back” games during the McGraw era (1987-88 to present) … Notre Dame ties its all-time series with Louisville at 4-4, while earning its third win in four tries at Louisville … Tuesday’s 18-point margin is the largest by either team in the series (previous: 69-54 ND win at Louisville on Feb. 21, 1994), with the four prior BIG EAST matchups all decided by 10 points or fewer; in fact, the aggregate series point total for the two teams coming into Tuesday’s game was a single point (ND 460-459) … Notre Dame improves to 24-10 (.706) on the road during the past two-plus seasons (since the start of the 2007-08 campaign), including a 4-1 record this year … the Fighting Irish forced at least 20 opponent turnovers for the 14th time in 17 games this season … Notre Dame trailed by 12 points in the first half (33-21) before coming back for the victory, the second double-digit rally for the Fighting Irish this season (trailed by 10 at Purdue on Jan. 4 before winning 79-75) … Notre Dame shoots 50 percent or better from the field for the sixth time this year … the Fighting Irish posted at least four double-figure scorers in a game for the ninth time this season (9-0 record) … freshman guard Skylar Diggins registers her second 20-point game of the year, having tossed in a career-high 21 points against #23/24 San Diego State on Nov. 26 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands (ironically, that was the day McGraw earned her 500th win at Notre Dame) … fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader logs her fourth double-double of the season, and 15th of her career … Schrader moves into a tie for ninth place on the Notre Dame career rebounds list with 730 boards, matching Krissi Davis’ output from 1987-91 … junior forward Becca Bruszewski dished out a career-high seven assists, two more than her previous best set on Dec. 8 vs. IPFW … Bruszewski also earned her first career “5-5-5” game with five points, six rebounds and seven assists … Bruszewski is the seventh different Fighting Irish to lead the team in assists in a game this season … senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow takes over sole possession of 14th place on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,308 points, passing Megan Duffy (1,290 from 2002-06).