Jan. 4, 2010
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) – Melissa Lechlitner has Purdue figured out.
One year after setting a career scoring high in a victory over the Boilermakers, she did it again. She scored a career-best 22 points, and No. 3 Notre Dame held off Purdue 79-75 on Monday night to remain unbeaten.
Lechlitner, who was averaging 6.2 points per game, made 8 of 16 shots, including four 3-pointers.
“I thought she really had a great game,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “She carried us through the first half, and then kept it going in the second.”
Purdue coach Sharon Versyp knew Lechlitner was capable. The senior guard scored 19 points in a 62-51 win last season in South Bend.
“She always plays well against us,” Versyp said. “It’s her fourth year, and she still played well against us. She took some good shots.”
Skylar Diggins and Lindsay Schrader each scored 15 points, and Ashley Barlow added 13 points and eight rebounds for Notre Dame (13-0), which is off to its best start since winning its first 23 games in 2000-2001. It was the final test for the Fighting Irish before Big East play.
“We’re excited to be undefeated in the non-conference portion of our season,” McGraw said. “That was one of our goals, and we’re fortunate.”
Jodi Howell scored 18 points and Chelsea Jones added a career-high 16 for Purdue (7-7).
Versyp is breaking in young players after reaching the Elite Eight last season, but close wasn’t good enough for her.
“It was a great basketball game between two good programs,” Versyp said. “This isn’t a moral victory whatsoever. We tasted it, we just didn’t get it.”
Purdue could have tied the game in the closing seconds, but Devereaux Peters blocked Samantha Woods’ 3-pointer from the right corner, and Notre Dame rebounded.
Notre Dame recovered from a rough first half to shoot 48 percent after the break.
The Irish had the ball with a 76-73 lead in the final minjs”>ute. Diggins missed in close as the shot clock wound down, and Purdue gained possession.
Howell made a layup with 12.1 seconds left to make it a one-point game.
The Boilermakers fouled Diggins with 11.8 seconds to play. She made the first free throw and missed the second, but Schrader got the rebound. Schrader made the first free throw, but missed the second to give the Boilermakers a chance.
Notre Dame had an uphill climb just to position itself to win. The Boilermakers led 37-28 late in the first half before Notre Dame went on a 8-0 run that included two baskets by Diggins to help trim Purdue’s lead to three points at halftime.
“I was a little disappointed with our defense in the first half, and our offense,” McGraw said. “We were more ourselves the second half.”
Notre Dame took a 49-48 advantage on a 3-pointer by Lechlitner, but Purdue’s Sam Ostarello came back with the first 3-pointer of her college career to put the Boilermakers back in front.
Brittany Mallory made a 3-pointer for Notre Dame to give her team a 58-54 lead, and Purdue point guard FahKara Malone left the game with an ankle injury on the play.
Malone returned as Howell tied the game at 62 on a pair of free throws, but Lechlitner and Diggins made back-to-back 3-pointers to give Notre Dame a 68-62 lead, its largest of the game, with 5:41 to play.
Purdue responded quickly. Howell was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws, then Malone got a steal and layup to make it 68-67.
A 3-pointer by Barlow with 2:38 to play made it 72-67, but Purdue rallied again to set up the frantic final minute.
The game provided just the test McGraw felt her team needed.
“We’re trying to get ready for the BIG EAST, and we got what we wanted out of this game,” she said.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame extends its season-opening win streak to 13 games, the second-longest to begin a season and fourth-longest overall run in program history (the last time the Fighting Irish had a longer success string was the start of the 2000-01 season when they won 23 in a row) … Notre Dame earns its fourth consecutive series win over Purdue and fifth in six games, although the Boilermakers still lead the all-time series, 14-9 (the Fighting Irish take a 9-8 edge since they joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96) … after losing its first eight games to Purdue at Mackey Arena, Notre Dame has won its last two series games in West Lafayette, and four in a row overall in the building (counting 2008 NCAA Tournament first and second round wins over SMU and Oklahoma) … another series trend that continued — at least one of the two teams has scored 70 points in 15 of the 23 games, with the first team to reach that mark earning the win all 15 times … Notre Dame recorded its third-highest point total in the Purdue series (and highest ever at Mackey Arena), exceeding only by an 86-69 win in 2005 and a 87-83 loss in 1994, both at Purcell Pavilion … the Fighting Irish won both of their games against Big Ten Conference opponents this year (also 68-67 at #21 Michigan State on Nov. 19) and have 13 of their last 19 against the Big Ten … Notre Dame has won 12 consecutive games against in-state opponents since a 54-51 home loss to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006 … the Fighting Irish are 23-9 on the road in the past two-plus seasons (start of 2007-08 to present) … Notre Dame committed a season-low nine turnovers (previous: 11 vs. South Carolina on Nov. 27 in the Virgin Islands) and its fewest in a game since Feb. 3, 2009 at Pittsburgh (also nine) … for the first time all season, Notre Dame trailed at halftime … the Fighting Irish faced their largest deficit of the season when Purdue moved out to a 23-13 lead with 9:20 left in the first half; it was the first time Notre Dame rallied from a double-digit deficit to win since Feb. 17, 2009, when the Fighting Irish trailed by 14 points (33-19) in the first half at South Florida, but came back to win, 86-79 … Notre Dame tied its season high with eight three-pointers, hitting that mark for the fifth time this year (last vs. Charlotte on Dec. 20) … senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner scored a career-high 22 points, one more than her previous high set in last year’s 62-51 win over Purdue at Purcell Pavilion … Lechlitner also had a career-high four three-pointers and eight total field goals on Monday … fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader, who scored all 15 of her points in the second half after being saddled with first-half foul trouble, jumped two spots into 18th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,207 points, passing both Krissi Davis (1,194 from 1987-91) and Heidi Bunek (1,202 from 1985-89) … senior center Erica Williamson earned her first start of the season (52nd of her career) in place of junior forward Becca Bruszewski, who did not dress due to illness.