Lindsay Schrader

No. 6 Notre Dame Downs Louisville, 89-52

March 6, 2010

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)–Notre Dame was the only one among five ranked BIG EAST teams not to get a bye into the conference tournament quarterfinals.

The Irish didn’t need it.

Erica Williamson led five players in double figures with 16 points and No. 6 Notre Dame routed Louisville 89-52 Saturday in the tournament’s second round.

“It’s nice to get a feel for the gym,” Williamson said. “We weren’t able to have a shootaround, with the schedule that we had, and the teams playing yesterday. So, it’s great to go out there, feel comfortable in the first half and just work on things in the second.”

Freshman Skylar Diggins had 13 points, Devereaux Peters added 11, and Lindsay Schrader and Becca Bruszewski each had 10. The Irish (26-4) advance to play No. 16 St. John’s in the quarterfinals on Sunday (noon ET on ESPNU).

Monique Reid had 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead Louisville. The Cardinals end the season 14-17, a year after losing in the national championship game to Connecticut.

Notre Dame and St. John’s ended the regular season in a fourth-place tie in the BIG EAST, but the Red Storm earned the No. 4 seed with a 76-71 win over the Irish last month. Notre Dame also had to play undefeated Connecticut twice, something that hurt its seeding.

But Irish coach Muffet McGraw said the extra game might end up helping her team.

“I was really pleased to be able to get out on the floor and get Skylar a run and Devereaux” she said. “Those guys didn’t play last year, so it was still a little bit new for them. So, it was great to be able to get out, get on the floor and see what it’s going to be like tomorrow.”

The Irish used a 10-0 run to build an early 15-6 lead, and the rout was on. They hit 14 of their first 19 shots, and forced Louisville into 15 first-half turnovers.

A 13-0 run gave the Irish a 38-16 lead.

Louisville missed its final seven shots of the half, did not score in the last 4 minutes and trailed 47-21 at halftime.

Notre Dame shot 56 percent from the floor, had 46 points in the paint and held Louisville to under 30-percent shooting in the first half.

A 3-pointer by Brittany Mallory made it 60-28 with 12 minutes left.

Williamson put an exclamation point on the game with a 3-point shot with 1:35 left, the first 3-pointer of the senior center’s career.

“Our team is a great 3-point shooting team, so it was fun to go out there and be a part of it,” she said. “I think I’m officially 1 for 3 on the career, so 33 percent, not that bad. I’m pretty happy.”

Louisville was hampered by the loss of several key players this season. Point guard Deseree Byrd and Laura Terry both sustained season-ending knee injuries and Ashley Rainey left the team for personal reasons. Center Chauntise Wright, who missed last season with an injury, was not granted an extra semester of eligibility.

“I feel like we responded the best way we could with all the injuries and everything that’s been going on this year,” Reid said. “I think we did good.”

Notre Dame knows it could have gotten a bye had it beaten St. John’s last month. And the players know what to look for on Sunday.

“We know we have to box out and get on the boards,” Peters said. “Hopefully, we’ll pull out a win.”

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame advances to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Conference Championship for the 14th time in its 15 seasons as a conference member (1995-96 to present) … Saturday’s 37-point margin of victory and 89 points scored were the most for the Fighting Irish in the BIG EAST Championship since March 4, 2001, when Notre Dame downed Georgetown, 89-33 in the tournament quarterfinals at Storrs, Conn. … the 37-point margin was the largest for the Fighting Irish in any postseason game since March 17, 2001, when Notre Dame opened its run to the NCAA national championship with a 98-49 win over Alcorn State at Purcell Pavilion … Notre Dame last scored more than 89 points in a postseason game on March 30, 2001, when it defeated Connecticut, 90-75 in the NCAA Women’s Final Four semifinals in St. Louis … the Fighting Irish also notched their highest point total and widest victory margin in 14 career games at Hartford’s XL Center, improving to 4-10 (.286) all-time at that arena … since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame now is 55-14 (.797) in its first game after a double-digit loss, including a 3-0 record this season (two of this victories coming over Louisville on Jan. 19 and March 6, as well as a Feb. 23 triumph over Marquette) … Notre Dame’s .565 field goal percentage was its second-highest ratio of the season, topped only by a .578 percentage on Dec. 8 vs. IPFW at Purcell Pavilion; it’s also the third time in the past four games that the Fighting Irish have shot better than 50 percent from the floor … Notre Dame connected at a .633 clip in the first half, its best shooting half since Jan. 10, 2009 (66.7, 18-of-27 in 2nd half vs. Georgetown at Purcell Pavilion) … Notre Dame shot a season-best .583 (7-of-12) from the three-point line, bettering a .571 ratio (4-for-7) vs. Villanova on Jan. 9 at Purcell Pavilion … the Fighting Irish held an opponent to fewer than 60 points for the 12th time this season (12-0 record) and forced at least 20 opponent turnovers for the 22nd time this year … Notre Dame’s 27 assists also were the second-highest mark of the season, exceeded only by a 31-assist night vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the season opener on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion … the Fighting Irish regain a 5-4 series lead over Louisville, with Saturday marking the first-ever BIG EAST Championship contest between the schools … it also was the most points scored and largest victory margin by Notre Dame in the series with the Cardinals … the 26-point halftime lead was Notre Dame’s largest against a BIG EAST opponent this season, topping the 21-point (43-22) intermission spread on Jan. 9 vs. Villanova … senior center Erica Williamson scored a season-high 16 points and became the eighth different Notre Dame player to lead the team in scoring at least once this season, with the Fighting Irish now having had seven different leading scorers in the past eight games … Williamson notched her fourth double-digit scoring game of the year and first since Dec. 20 (10 points vs. Charlotte at Purcell Pavilion); her previous season high was 11 points vs. IPFW on Dec. 8, also at Purcell Pavilion … Williamson connected on the first three-point field goal of her career late in the second half, making her the 10th Notre Dame player to hit a triple this season … senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow moved into 10th place on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,446 points, passing Sheila McMillen (1,439 from 1995-99) … freshman guard Skylar Diggins had three steals vs. Louisville, giving her 68 thefts for the year and breaking Coquese Washington’s school record for steals by a rookie (67 in 1989-90) … Diggins now has 405 points this season, becoming only the fourth freshman in school history to score 400 points in her rookie campaign (and first since Alicia Ratay had 447 points in 1999-2000) … all 12 Notre Dame players who suited up for Saturday’s game scored, including sophomore guard Fraderica Miller, who was making her first appearance since recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery following the Jan. 9 game vs. Villanova … Notre Dame had five double-figure scorers for the fifth time this season … sophomore guard Natalie Novosel tied her career high with six assists, a mark she first set in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion.