No. 7 Notre Dame 72, Seton Hall 47
Muffet McGraw wasn't worrying about whether No. 7 Notre Dame will get a double bye in the upcoming Big East tournament.
Odds are against the Irish. Recent losses to No. 13 Georgetown and No. 18 St. John's have put Notre Dame in the tough position of either having to beat No. 1 Connecticut on Monday or getting some help from the Red Storm in the form of a loss to Pittsburgh to avoid slipping to the No. 5 seed in the league.
The good news for McGraw is the Irish (25-3, 12-3) have senior Lindsay Schrader back in the lineup and they are finding their game again. She scored 12 and Notre Dame dominated in the paint with 50 points during a 72-47 victory over Seton Hall on Saturday.
``It's huge, huge, having her back,'' McGraw said of Schrader, who missed the Georgetown and St. John's games with a sprained ankle. ``You have those times when you are back and forth, not scoring and the lead goes from 13 to 10 or nine. You call time out and say: 'Let's get the ball to Schrader,' and we score and everyone relaxes. It helps us having her in the game.''
The win set up Monday night's matchup against UConn, which improved to 29-0 and extended its winning streak to 68 games with an 84-62 rout over Georgetown.
The Irish need to beat the Huskies or have St. John's (11-4 in the conference) lose to avoid the No. 5 seed. The top four seeds get double byes and the No. 5 only gets a single bye.
``It is what it is right now,'' McGraw said. ``We really did it to ourselves. We probably will spend some time down at The Grotto at Notre Dame lighting some candles for whoever St. John's is playing on Monday, but we have to keep playing, and right now, I don't know if there is anything we can do.''
Schrader didn't seem to care whether the Irish got the No. 5 seed.
``I want to play St. John's and I want to play Georgetown,'' she said. ``That's two teams I want to play. I haven't played them.''
Melissa Lechlitner added 10 points and the Irish closed both halves with big runs in sending the Pirates (9-19, 1-14) to their sixth straight loss and 15th in 16 games.
Kandice Green had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Pirates. Ebonie Williams had 13 points and Terry Green added 11.
The Irish, who snapped two-game losing streak with win over Marquette on Tuesday, had a 12-point run at the end of the first half to build a 12-point lead, and they scored 13 in a row late to blow open the game.
``Our effort is there, we just have to find ways to score,'' Seton Hall coach Phyllis Mangina said. ``We went ice cold the last seven minutes of the game. We had shots that just went in and out, and they just kept on scoring.''
Most of the points in both runs came in the paint for the Irish, who shot 56 percent from the field.
Schrader was the catalyst in the first run with six points. Becca Bruszewski had six of her eight in the late run.
Ten of the 11 players who got on the court for Notre Dame scored, with Skylar Diggins and Ashley Barlow adding nine points apiece and Devereaux Peters adding eight points.
``With Lindsay, Dev and Becca on the block, we were definitely were going high-low all day,'' Lechlitner said. ``They were pinning and sealing and just doing a great job down low all game. They are three very hard people to guard down there.''
The final score was not indicative of how hard Seton Hall pushed Notre Dame, which last won 25 games in 2004-05.
Maybe using the motivation from Senior Day, Seton Hall played Notre Dame surprisingly close for the opening 15 minutes, drawing within 24-22 with 5:08 to play on a layup by Kandice Green.
Notre Dame's pressing defense suddenly started forcing turnovers and the Irish ran off 12 straight points with the final 10 coming from in close.
``I think our defensive pressure starting fueling our offense,'' Lechlitner said. ``We got some steals, quick transition buckets. Anytime you can get something easy going for you, it's easier to start building up the lead.''
Lechlitner started the run with a foul-line jumper and Schrader scored inside for a 28-22 lead. The Irish then forced consecutive turnovers. Diggins scored on a fastbreak off a Lechlitner pass on the first and Peters followed a Lechlitner miss for a 32-22 lead.
Schrader closed out the run with layups off nice assists by Bruszewski.
``They got a lot of backdoor passes, things we saw coming but it seemed like we kept getting screened off,'' Kandice Green said. ``It's a lot of things we need to work on.''