Lindsay Schrader puts up a shot as Valparaiso forward Lauren Kenney and guard Aimee Litka defend during the first half. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

#8 Irish Defeat Crusaders, 63-55

Dec. 13, 2008

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VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) – Wide open for a 3, Ashley Barlow decided to ignore Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw’s order to drive inside.

Her 3-point shot bounced high off the rim, then ricocheted two more times off metal before finally falling through for the first 3-pointer of the game for the eighth-ranked Irish, giving them a four-point lead as Notre Dame finished with a 13-4 run to beat Valparaiso 63-55 on Saturday.

“I worked on that in warmups. It hit every part of the rim,” joked Barlow, who finished with 15 points. “It finally dropped. I was just lucky it dropped in.”

McGraw said she was happy Barlow ignored what she said at the timeout.

“I’m just so glad she shot it because I thought it was one of the key points of the game,” McGraw said.

Valparaiso (4-3), coming off a 71-60 upset of No. 21 Purdue on Wednesday, trailed 38-31 after Barlow drove inside for a basket three minutes into the second half. But Valparaiso tied the score at 42 when Aimee Litka hit a 3 midway through the second half.

But then Melissa Lechlitner scored 12 of her 18 points in the final 9:22 to rally the Irish.

“I thought Lech took over the game,” McGraw said. “We got to a point where we needed to drive the ball. We called her number and she responded well.”

Whitney Farris scored inside for the Crusaders to cut the lead to 55-53. But the Irish scored the next three baskets, with Lechlitner putting the game away with a 12-foot jumper with 51 seconds left.

Valparaiso coach Keith Freeman said his team wasn’t tough enough down the stretch.

“Our kids did a great job of making it a five-minute game. I didn’t like what we did in that last five minutes. I would have liked to have seen better execution,” he said.

Lindsay Schrader added 14 points and six rebounds for the Irish. Agnieszka Kulaga led Valparaiso with 12 points and Lauren Kenney had 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Valparaiso got off to a strong start, making 7 of 10 shots to open a 15-8 lead when Ashley Varner scored inside six minutes into the game. Defensively, the Crusaders held Notre Dame to 4-of-13 shooting.

But the Irish closed to 16-15 on a three-point play by Erica Solomon, igniting a 16-0 run by the Irish to take a 28-16 lead as Valparaiso missed 16 consecutive shots and had five turnovers during the run, including a shot-clock violation. The Irish led 32-24 at halftime.

Notre Dame improved to 22-0 against Valparaiso.

McGraw was pleased with her team’s effort coming off a loss, especially after losing guard Brittany Mallory to a knee injury, the second key player the Irish have lost this season. Forward Devereaux Peters injured her knee last month.

“Different people came up with big plays at different times,” McGraw said. “I think that’s a real shot of confidence for us.”

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame remains unbeaten in 22 series games against Valparaiso, the most wins against one opponent without a loss in school history … the Irish also improve to 10-0 all-time at the Athletics-Recreation Center, with this being the fourth consecutive series game at the ARC that was decided by 10 points or fewer (and six of the past eight series games overall) … Notre Dame has held Valparaiso to 60 points or fewer in 20 of 22 series games, while the Irish have scored at least 60 points in 15 of 22 games (including 13 of the past 15) … Notre Dame’s 22 wins over the Crusaders are the most against an Indiana opponent in school history … the Irish move to 102-14 (.879) all-time against current Horizon League members, including a 44-9 (.830) record on the road … Notre Dame’s three-point defense continues to be stout this season, with the Irish holding Valparaiso to a .227 mark (5-of-22) and limiting all nine opponents this season to a combined .228 three-point percentage (28-of-123); specifically, the Irish held the Horizon League’s top three-point shooter, Valparaiso’s Aimee Litka, to 2-of-10 from beyond the arc … Notre Dame’s overall defense has been strong as well, with the Irish holding eight of their nine opponents to 63 points or fewer (five to less than 60 points) … Notre Dame had at least three double-figure scorers for the eighth time in nine games this season, going 8-0 in those contests … the Irish held their sixth opponent this year to less than 40 percent shooting, moving to 6-0 in those games … the Irish have led at the half in their last eight games, going 7-1 in that time (they were tied at halftime in the season-opening win at No. 24/22 LSU and lost Wednesday’s overtime game at Michigan after owning a one-point halftime edge) … junior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner scored in double figures for the fourth time in five games, finishing one point off her career high (set last Sunday in the win over No. 17/20 Purdue at the Joyce Center) … junior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow scored in double digits for the 12th consecutive game, dating back to last year … senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader posted her seventh double-figure scoring game in nine outings this year, and is shooting .667 (10-of-15) from the floor in her last two games … freshman forward Erica Solomon registered a season-high three steals and tied her season best with 23 minutes played, while winding up one block off her personal high (set at Eastern Michigan on Dec. 2); Solomon also has been a force on the glass of late, averaging 6.0 rebounds in her last four games.