Melissa Lechlitner  (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

No. 5 Irish Stay Perfect, Defeat South Carolina, 78-55

Nov. 27, 2009

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ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands (AP)Melissa Lechlitner scored 15 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures, and the No. 5 Fighting Irish defeated South Carolina 78-55 in the Paradise Jam on Friday.

Ashley Barlow scored 14 points for Notre Dame (5-0). Skylar Diggins contributed 12 points and Becca Bruszewski had 11.

Valeria Nainima led South Carolina (2-3) with 15 points, and Kelsey Bone scored 14 points.

Notre Dame went on a 15-2 run midway through the first half and led by as many as 17 points at 40-23.

“I loved the second-half defense,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought we did an outstanding job in the zone. I thought we got out and guarded the shooter in the second half.”

After South Carolina pulled to within six early in the second half, the Irish reeled off an 11-0 run and cruised from there.

Notre Dame takes on No. 20 Oklahoma on Saturday. South Carolina plays No. 23 San Diego State.

Lechlitner, a 5-foot-7 guard, hit 6-of-12 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers.

“The screen and rolls were really open, because they were going under,” Lechlitner said. “It opened free-throw jumpers wide open for a lot of us. We got a lot of easy looks in transition. In our half-court game, they would go two people with a back-door cutter, and it would leave me or whoever open.”

Notre Dame takes on No. 20 Oklahoma on Saturday.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley’s club is playing three ranked teams in three days in the Paradise Jam. The Gamecocks lost to No. 20 Oklahoma on Thursday, 75-67, and will play No. 23 San Diego State on Saturday.

“It’s tough for a young team, but I’d rather play these teams than get three 60-point blowouts,” Staley said. “I would rather play a competitive schedule, because the other thing does nothing but blow our heads up and make us think we’re better than what we are. We will learning from being in this tournament.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame and South Carolina were meeting for the first time in 27 years, nine months and seven days, making it the second-longest hiatus between series games in Fighting Irish women’s basketball history (topped only by Thursday’s renewal of the San Diego State series) … Notre Dame earns its first win in three tries against South Carolina … the Fighting Irish also collect their third consecutive win over a Southeastern Conference opponent (all away from home) and are 6-7 in their last 13 games against the SEC … Notre Dame now has won 20 of its last 23 regular season tournament games, dating back to the start of the 1996-97 season … the Fighting Irish held South Carolina to 18 second-half points, the fewest by an opponent in one half since Nov. 25, 2008, when Georgia Southern scored just 17 first-half points at the former Joyce Center in a 85-38 Notre Dame win … the Fighting Irish forced 21 South Carolina turnovers and have caused at least 20 opponent giveaways in all six games this season … conversely, Notre Dame committed a season-low 11 turnovers, four fewer than its previous season low vs. Iona on Nov. 22 at Purcell Pavilion … the Fighting Irish move to 60-11 (.845) in November games, with an active 13-game winning streak in the month … Notre Dame is 168-17 (.908) when leading at the half since the start of the 2000-01 season … the Fighting Irish now have a 198-14 (.934) record in their BIG EAST Conference era (1995-96 to present) when holding their opponents to fewer than 60 points, including three of five games this season … senior guard Melissa Lechlitner scored a season-high 15 points, her best offensive day since last year’s NCAA Tournament opener vs. Minnesota (16 points) … senior guards Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader both played in the 100th game of their careers, one day after Lechlitner and senior center Erica Williamson reached that landmark … this represents the first time in the 33-year history of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program that four players have appeared in their 100th career game in the same season … Schrader now has 1,110 career points, moving into 21st place on the Fighting Irish career scoring list, passing Danielle Green (1,106 from 1995-2000) … Barlow added a season-high four assists … junior forward Becca Bruszewski logged her first career “point-a-minute” game with 11 points in 11 minutes (due to foul trouble); it’s the first “point-a-minute” game for a Notre Dame player (min. 10 minutes played) since Nov. 23, 2008, when current sophomore forward Erica Solomon had 15 points in 14 minutes at Boston College … freshman guard Skylar Diggins made her first career start, tallying 12 points, four rebounds and a season-high-tying four steals in 27 minutes.