Dec. 30, 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) –Becca Bruszewski scored 10 points in the second half and 12th-ranked Notre Dame completed the largest comeback in program history with a 59-57 victory over No. 20 Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
Vanderbilt (11-3) had a chance to tie, but Jessica Mooney’s driving layup bounced off the rim as time expired.
The Fighting Irish trailed by 18 (44-26) with 17:41 to play but outscored the Commodores 22-0 over the next 9:24.
Bruszewski’s layup with 8:36 left put Notre Dame (11-1) in front for the first time since it led 4-2 in the opening minutes. Ashley Barlow’s two free throws moments earlier tied it 46-46.
“The second half we just got mad,” senior forward Lindsay Schrader said. “We were getting whooped. … We took that really, really personal and we fought back hard.”
Notre Dame’s previous biggest rally was from 16 points down against Connecticut in the 2001 Women’s Final Four. The Irish won that game 90-75 on their way to the national championship.
The Irish led by as many as four five times in the closing minutes of this one, but a turnover with four seconds remaining led to Mooney’s last-second shot.
“Big leads are tough to play with,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I don’t care who you are or where you are because then you’re protecting something, and they’re not. They’re going for it.”
Notre Dame went for it on rebounds, where it had a 27-13 advantage (10-5 at the offensive end) in the second half and 45-34 overall. Barlow led the team with a season-high nine, Schrader had eight and Bruszewski and Erica Solomon each had seven.
The Irish went 4-for-7 from 3-point range over the final 15:44 after missing their first eight from beyond the arc. Kellie Watson made two, and Melissa Lechlitner made one during the 22-0 run. Bruszewski made the last with 3:29 remaining after Vanderbilt pulled to 52-51.
Notre Dame pressured Vanderbilt into 10-of-29 shooting (34.5 percent) in the second half, and Christina Wirth, who made four 3-pointers in the opening half, was held scoreless for the final 20 minutes.
“Our defense was outstanding in the second half,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We played all man-to-man because Christina Wirth was having a great game.”
Bruszewski and Schrader led Notre Dame with 12 points each and Lechlitner added 11.
Vanderbilt’s Hannah Tuomi led all scorers with 20 points.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: In its previous school-record comeback over Connecticut in the 2001 NCAA Final Four semifinals (March 30, 2001 in St. Louis), Notre Dame trailed the Huskies, 47-31 with two minutes left in the first half, before outscoring UConn, 59-28 the rest of the way … the 22-0 second-half run wasn’t even the longest string of unanswered points by the Irish this season — on Nov. 25, Notre Dame reeled off 27 consecutive points in the second half of an 85-36 win over Georgia Southern at the Joyce Center … the Irish improve to 4-0 against AP Top 25 opponents this season … prior to this season, Notre Dame had never defeated an SEC opponent on its home floor — the Irish now have two victories at SEC schools in the past six weeks, having also downed #24/22 LSU, 62-53 in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 … this marks the second time in school history Notre Dame has defeated multiple SEC opponents in the same season, having also done in 2000-01 (d. Georgia, 75-73, in Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge final at Madison, Wis.; d. Vanderbilt, 72-64, in NCAA Midwest Regional final at Denver) … the Irish move to 3-1 all-time against Vanderbilt, picking up their first-ever win over the Commodores in Nashville … Notre Dame trailed at the half for the first time all season, and was held to its second-lowest first-half point total of the season (23 vs. Purdue on Dec. 7) … Notre Dame has held 11 of 12 opponents to 63 points or fewer, including three of four Top 25 opponents to 57 points or fewer (only exception in both cases was a 78-72 win over #24 Michigan State on Nov. 29) … the Irish limited Vanderbilt to a .387 field goal percentage after the Commodores came into the game ranked fifth in the nation in that category with a .477 percentage at tipoff (they were at .482 in the last NCAA rankings on Dec. 22) … Bruszewski tied her career high with seven rebounds (twice before, most recently on Jan. 5, 2008, vs. Tennessee) … Barlow collected a season-high nine rebounds (previous was eight on Nov. 25 vs. Georgia Southern … Solomon posted her second perfect shooting night of the season, having gone 5-for-5 on the way to a season-high 15 points on Nov. 23 at Boston College … Notre Dame had at least three double-figure scorers for the 11th time in 12 games this season, going 11-0 in those games.