Nov. 3, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Sophomore forward Erica Solomon (Charleston, W.Va./Detroit (Mich.) Country Day School) and freshman guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) each came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points, leading six Notre Dame players in double figures as the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish rolled past the University of Indianapolis, 97-53, in an exhibition game on Tuesday before a record-setting crowd of 7,508 fans (the largest ever to witness a Notre Dame preseason contest) in the first women's basketball game at the newly-refurbished Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
Solomon also shared game-high honors with six rebounds and snared a game-best four steals, all in just 16 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Diggins connected on 6-of-10 shots from the floor (including her lone three-point attempt), grabbed four rebounds, all on the offensive glass, and added three steals for good measure. Sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) made the most of her first starting assignment, getting the Fighting Irish off on the right foot in the first half before finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) tossed in 12 points, as did junior guard Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh School), the latter tacking on a game-high four assists while playing a team-high 23 minutes in her first action since missing all but seven games last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) rounded out Notre Dame double-digit scoring parade with 10 points and six rebounds.
Katie Dewey led Indianapolis with 16 points, and Samantha Meissel added 12 points for the Greyhounds, who are ranked fourth in the preseason Division II polls and were coming off a 67-56 exhibition win at Division I member Valparaiso two nights earlier.
Notre Dame's renewed sense of urgency on the defensive end of the floor showed in Tuesday's preseason tilt, as the Fighting Irish forced 36 turnovers, coming up with 22 steals. They also easily won the rebounding battle by a 44-30 margin (allowing just five offensive boards) and held Indianapolis to a .389 field goal percentage (14-of-36). In fact, the Greyhounds did as much of their offensive damage at the foul line, trying almost as many free throws as field goals (20-of-31 at the stripe).
On offense, the Fighting Irish shot .444 from the floor (32-of-72), including a sharp 8-of-16 from the three-point line. Notre Dame also worked its way to the free throw line, making 25-of-33 charities (.758) on the night.
"I thought offensively we did a lot of good things," Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. "That's where you're going to see the strength of our bench. I was pleased with the way that we came off the bench. I'm really happy with some of the things we did on offense. I thought we rebounded really well despite the size that we don't have right now. Defensively, I think we've got some work to do on the block and not fouling so much. We fouled way too much. I think that's the one thing that we have to take away from the game and work on."
After taking the first few minutes to shake loose the rust from the off-season, Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run, fueled by five steals and a pair of transition layups, to take a 15-4 lead and force Indianapolis to burn a timeout with 14:23 left in the first half. The Greyhounds then answered back with their best offensive push of the evening, mounting a 10-2 charge that was capped by Dewey's three-pointer with 9:47 remaining. Although neither side knew it at the time, UIndy wouldn't make another shot from the field for the rest of the first half.
Leading 20-16, the Fighting Irish blew the game wide open by closing the period on a 22-6 run. Novosel knocked down a pair of three-pointers during the spurt, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind./Wheeler) scored all five of her points in that stretch. Notre Dame forced five turnovers along the way, and the only saving grace for Indianapolis seemed to be the respite it enjoyed at the foul line, going 6-of-11 from the charity stripe over the final eight minutes, but still trailing by a 42-22 count.
However, the feisty Greyhounds weren't about to go quietly, as they ended a field goal drought of 10:18 with Jessica Canary's three-pointer 31 seconds into the second half. Meissel followed with a jumper in the lane to trim the lead to 15 points and McGraw quickly used a timeout to settle her troops. Out of the break, the Fighting Irish briskly scored seven points (five from Barlow) and Indianapolis never got closer than 19 points the rest of the way.
As it turned out, the primary drama down the stretch was whether Notre Dame would send the Purcell Pavilion faithful home with full bellies, thanks to its popular Big Mac giveaway when the team scores 88 points in a game. Solomon did the honors on Tuesday night, hitting a pair of free throws with 4:05 to play.
The Fighting Irish now will get ready to open the 2009-10 regular season on Nov. 15, when they play host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Purcell Pavilion. A limited number of tickets for that game, and all Notre Dame women's basketball contests, may be purchased through the Fighting Irish Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), visiting the Purcell Pavilion ticket windows (second floor via Gate 1), going on-line to www.UND.com/tickets, or in person on game nights by stopping at the ticket windows on the east side of Notre Dame Stadium.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 30-1 (.968) in exhibition games in the past 17 seasons (1993-94 to present), while stretching its preseason winning streak to 25 games; the only loss for the Fighting Irish in that time was a 94-89 defeat at the hands of the Lithuanian National Team in 1996 ... Notre Dame's 97 points were the fifth-most ever scored by the Fighting Irish in exhibition play, and the most they have scored in the preseason since Nov. 14, 2000, when they knocked off Tapiolan Honka, an all-star team from Finland, by a 98-53 score ... Notre Dame is 9-0 against College Division opponents (Division II, Division III or NAIA) since NCAA rules allowed teams to play exhibitions against those schools earlier this decade -- the Fighting Irish have won their last four exhibition games (dating back to 2007-08) against Division II schools by an average of 48.5 points per game ... in their last two preseason games, the Fighting Irish have forced a combined total of 82 turnovers (46 last year vs. Gannon, 36 Tuesday vs. Indianapolis) ... Notre Dame and Indianapolis also had played a preseason game on Nov. 5, 2005, when the Fighting Irish winning that night, 84-59 ... Tuesday's crowd of 7,508 was the largest ever to see a Notre Dame women's basketball exhibition game, topping the old record of 6,996 set on Nov. 13, 2001, for an 87-39 win over Christian Brothers University (from Memphis, Tenn.) ... had it been a regular season game, Solomon's 17 points and four steals would have been a career best, topping her 15 points at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008, and the three steals at Valparaiso on Dec. 13, 2008 ... interestingly, that BC game also saw Solomon post a "point-a-minute" performance with 15 points in 14 minutes ... The 17 points from Solomon and Diggins were the most by a Notre Dame player in an exhibition game since Nov. 1, 2007, when current senior center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg) scored 18 points in a 90-38 win over Southern Indiana; Williamson did not dress against Indianapolis while she continues to rehabilitate an ankle injury ... Novosel's off-season work on her three-point shot seemed to pay dividends on Tuesday, as she went 2-of-4 from distance after going 1-for-10 on three-pointers last year ... all 11 Notre Dame players that dressed for Tuesday's exhibition not only played, but got in the scoring column, with freshman guard Kaila Turner (Joliet, Ill./Marian Catholic) capping the night with two free throws in the final minute; Turner had two points, three steals and one rebound in 17 minutes ... prior to the game, Diggins was presented with a plaque from USA Basketball for her participation as a co-captain on the 2009 USA U19 World Championship Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Thailand back in August.