Feb. 9, 2010

CINCINNATI (AP) -The crowd was small, the mood was subdued, the snow was falling outside. Fourth-ranked Notre Dame didn’t feel a whole lot of energy at the opening tip.

Lindsay Schrader and the Irish defense eventually provided it.

Schrader scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half Tuesday, and Notre Dame intensified its full-court pressure, building a 20-point lead and holding on for a 66-50 win over Cincinnati.

The Irish (22-1, 9-1 Big East) have won seven straight since their loss to No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 16, a streak set up by offensive balance and unrelenting defensive pressure. Schrader led the way against Cincinnati (10-12, 3-7), shaking off a 1-for-7 shooting performance in a first half that lacked energy.

Only 472 fans showed up for a game played as the city was digging out from another major snowstorm.

“It was kind of dead,” said Schrader, who missed only one of her seven shots in the second half. “We had to create our own energy. I don’t think we were up for that, either. So it was kind of a dull game.

“I don’t like to play like that. I like to play with a lot of emotion and a loud crowd and stuff like that, but it was just one of those games you have to get through, and we did.”

The senior guard got the Irish revved by making three consecutive baskets early in the second half, pushing the lead to 20. When Cincinnati got the lead down to nine, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw called a timeout and called a play designed to get the ball inside to Schrader.

She caught the pass, made a layup, was fouled and completed a three-point play that ended Cincinnati’s comeback.

“That’s generally the play when we need a basket – we go to her,” McGraw said. “She came on in the second half. You know she’s going to, it’s just a question of when. We called her number quite a few times and she was able to score.”

Becca Bruszewski added 14 points and eight rebounds, helping the Irish get through a night when they started very slowly.

“We probably missed 10 layups in the first half,” McGraw said. “We were lethargic. I think we let the atmosphere get to us. It was dead. It’s snowing and we’re worried about getting home. They’re a veteran team. They need to put that behind them and come out and play hard.”

Kahla Roudebush had 17 points for Cincinnati, which is 0-4 against ranked teams this season.

The Bearcats couldn’t take advantage of Notre Dame’s ragged first half. The Irish led only 19-16 with 7:35 left in the half. That’s when Notre Dame’s pressure and dominance inside let the Irish take control.

The Bearcats went 1 of 8 with four turnovers the rest of the half, allowing Notre Dame to pull ahead 32-18. The Irish had 12 offensive rebounds in the half, setting up 14 points.

Junior guard Brittany Mallory had a career-high eight rebounds in the first half alone. In one sequence during the late first-half run, the Irish got four offensive rebounds on one possession and finally scored on Devereaux Peters’ putback.

Notre Dame opened the second half with an 8-2 run that featured three straight baskets by Schrader and pushed the lead to 40-20.

The Irish force an average of 24 turnovers per game with their trapping, full-court pressure. It got the Bearcats’ offense out of sync and forced sloppy moments that left coach Jamelle Elliott pointing at her head. Cincinnati had an over-and-back violation, a shot clock violation, and threw the ball out of bounds on consecutive possessions.

Cincinnati finished with 23 turnovers, setting up 21 Irish points.

“The thing throughout the game that upset me the most was the unforced turnovers,” Elliott said. “They’re going to make you turn the ball over X-number of times in a game. One of the things we tried to do in preparation for this game was to stay solid and not have unforced turnovers. We’d throw the ball away, make passes we knew wouldn’t be completed.”