Erica Williamson snares a rebound. (AP Photo)

Balanced Effort Helps Irish Rout Cleveland State, 86-58

March 21, 2010

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Cleveland State’s Kailey Klein couldn’t escape Notre Dame’s Ashley Barlow too often in the second half.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw put her best defender on Klein after the 5-foot-11 guard scored 21 straight points for the Vikings in the first half and kept the first round NCAA tournament game Sunday closer than expected. By the time Klein hit her first basket in the second half, the Irish were ahead by 19 and pulling away for an 86-58 victory.

“Barlow was chasing me all over the floor,” Klein said. “I was coming out expecting that and I just hoped my teammates would hit some shots.”

Her teammates couldn’t hit enough, though. While Klein scored 31 points and was 12-of-23 shooting, her teammates were just 10-of-36.

“Kailey carried us in the first half and we just weren’t able to connect from long range,” Cleveland State coach Kate Peterson Abiad said.

Klein was able to get open in the first half because she kept getting mismatches with bigger players who couldn’t guard her when the Irish pressed after baskets. The Irish slowed her some with the zone, but not enough to satisfy McGraw.

“We decided to let Barlow have a go at it,” she said.

The Irish cruised to the victory after losing to Minnesota at home in the opening round of last year’s NCAA tournament. Notre Dame (28-5) will host Vermont (27-6) in the second round Tuesday night.

Barlow not only played well defensively, but got her offense going as well. After shooting 1-of-7 for three points in the first half, she was 4-of-5 shooting in the second half for 13 points. Becca Bruszewski had 14 points and Devereaux Peters added 12.

Barlow said the Irish lost track of Klein too often in the first half.

“She’s a great player and was finding ways to score at will in the first half. In the second half we just located her and knew where she was the whole time.”

McGraw called Klein’s performance “phenomenal,” saying the only similar streak she could recall against the Irish was when Connecticut’s Maya Moore opened the game by scoring the first 15 points for the Huskies two years ago.

Stephanie Crosley scored a layup for Cleveland State (19-14) for the game’s first basket and added another shot inside with 73 seconds left in the first half. In between, Klein scored all of the Vikings’ other points in the half.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, though, Notre Dame managed to hold Kailey without a field goal for more than nine minutes as the Irish went on an 18-2 run to take a 22-10 lead.

Klein, who is 24th in the country in scoring at 18.6 points a game, went on a 9-0 run all by herself, though, to cut the lead to 22-19 with 5 minutes left in the first half. The Irish ended the half on a 12-6 spurt and led 34-25 at intermission. They took control with a 10-2 spurt early in the second half. They pulled away most of the second half.