Nov. 5, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Freshman guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) came off the bench to score a game-high 14 points and pace four Notre Dame players in double figures as the No. 16/14 Irish cruised to a 96-30 exhibition win over Gannon on Wednesday night before a crowd of 5,428 at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame forced the Knights into a whopping 46 turnovers (with 29 coming on Irish steals), and parlayed those takeaways into 56 points while registering its largest exhibition victory in 16 years and improving to 29-1 in preseason play since 1993-94, including an active 24-game exhibition winning streak.
Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's) tossed in 13 points, all in the second half, while senior guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind./Wheeler) added 12 points apiece. Four other Irish players had at least eight points, while all 10 players in uniform scoring at least five points. Collectively, Notre Dame shot 46.8 percent from the field (37-of-79), won the rebounding battle by a 45-42 margin, and finished with a positive assist/turnover ratio (19 assists, 12 turnovers).
Gannon, an NCAA Division II school from Erie, Pa., was led by Brittany Tabron, who posted a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds before fouling out with a little less than seven minutes to play. The Knights, who return four starters and eight letterwinners from last year's 16-12 squad, shot 22.4 percent from the floor (11-of-49), including 1-of-10 from the three-point line.
"For our first time out, I thought we looked pretty good," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "We played good team basketball, shared the ball well and our assist-to-turnover ratio was solid. We've still got some things to work on, especially in the half-court set where I would have liked to see us do a little better. But overall, I was pleased with our effort and the contributions we got from everyone up and down the lineup."
Last season, Notre Dame ranked among the top 15 in the nation in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg.), scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg.) and steals (13th - 11.7 spg.), and all three of those traits were evident early on in Wednesday's exhibition. The Irish jumped out to an 8-0 lead 3:26 into the game on the strength of three steals and four Gannon turnovers. However, Lechlitner picked up her second foul moments later and would be relegated to the bench for the rest of the half. Meanwhile, the Knights battled back and got as close as three points on two occasions, the second at 10-7 on Kristina Freeman's layup with 13:51 remaining in the first half.
From there, Notre Dame slammed its foot on the accelerator and didn't let up, with Novosel's fast break layup igniting a 27-2 run covering the next 8:44 that blew the game wide open. Bruszewski had steals on four out of five Gannon possessions early in the surge, while nine different Irish players (all but Lechlitner) scored during the run and none of them had more than five points. The Knights managed to stem the tide for the remainder of the first half, but still found themselves looking up at a 45-16 deficit going to the locker room.
Things didn't get much better for the visitors in the second half, as Notre Dame continued to rotate in fresh bodies -- every player saw between 13 and 27 minutes of action on the night. A Schrader layup in the first minute of the period hiked the Irish lead over 30 points, while a massive 34-8 run during the middle stages of the half quashed any hopes for a Gannon comeback. In fact, one of the few dramatic moments of the game occurred in the final five minutes, as Notre Dame neared the 88-point mark that would result in a coupon for a free Big Mac to all fans in attendance. Novosel wound up sending the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) after converting a pair of free throws with 4:10 to play. The Irish defense also maintained its level of intensity despite the wide margin, holding Gannon to a single basket and forcing 11 turnovers during the final 9:42 of the game.
Wednesday's game was the lone exhibition for Notre Dame this year. The Irish will open the 2008-09 regular season on Sunday, Nov. 16, when they travel to Baton Rouge, La., to take on No. 24/22 LSU at 1:30 p.m. CT (2:30 p.m. ET in South Bend) in the 16th annual State Farm Tip-Off Classic. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN2, with Dave O'Brien and Carolyn Peck on the call.
POST GAME NOTES: Prior to Wednesday night, the largest margin for the Irish in an exhibition game (dating back to 1993-94) had been 52 points, set just last year in a 90-38 win over Division II member Southern Indiana at the Joyce Center ... it's also the fewest points Notre Dame has allowed in an exhibition game during that 16-year span, bettering the 34 points it allowed to Slavyanka (Russia) in 1997-98; in fact, the last time the Irish allowed fewer points in a regular-season game was Jan. 21, 1982, when they posted an 84-27 win at Valparaiso ... Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points in its last three preseason games and four of the past six, and has topped the 80-point mark in nine consecutive exhibition contests beginning with the 2004-05 season ... Notre Dame now is 8-0 all-time against College Division (Division II, III or NAIA) opponents in the preseason, a practice that began for the Irish in 2001-02 with an 87-39 win over Christian Brothers University of Memphis, Tenn. ... had Wednesday's game been a regular-season contest, the 46 turnovers forced by the Irish defense would have been only two away from the school record set way back in the program's AIAW Division III incarnation on Jan. 11, 1980 (48 by SIU-Edwardsville in a 65-51 Notre Dame win at the Huskie Invitational in DeKalb, Ill.) ... Notre Dame's 29 steals also would have tied the school record set twice before (most recently on Jan. 31, 1991, in a 97-48 win at Saint Louis) ... sophomore forward Devereaux Peters did not dress for Wednesday's game after violating a team rule (missing a study session).