Dec. 16, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Junior center Melissa D'Amico (Manorville, N.Y./William Floyd) matched her career high with 20 points, connecting on 8-of-10 shots from the field, as Notre Dame led from the opening tip to the final horn in a 75-65 victory over IUPUI on Saturday afternoon at the Joyce Center. It was the 600th victory in the 30-year history of Irish women's basketball, making Notre Dame the 43rd NCAA Division I school to reach that milestone.
Junior guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne) added 16 points and a career-high five steals for the Irish (7-3), who earned their fourth win in the past five outings while seeing their first action following a season-long 10-day break for final exams. Freshman guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) nearly picked up her second double-double of the year, finishing with 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds. As a team, Notre Dame shot 53.1 percent from the floor in the first half, then expanded their advantage to as many as 24 points in the second period before the Jaguars made a late run to cut into the final margin.
Tiffany Finkton and Alicia Booyer scored 14 points apiece for IUPUI (5-5), which was playing Notre Dame for the first time ever. Jernisha Cann chipped in with a double-double for the Jaguars, collecting 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Despite their extended layoff, the Irish looked anything but rusty in the early going, surging out to a 24-7 lead on the last of four transition layups by Gaines with 12:31 to go in the first half. Notre Dame connected on its first five shots of the day, seven of its first eight and 12 of its first 17 (with three of the five misses coming from the three-point line), while forcing IUPUI into 10 quick turnovers, including five on steals.
The Jaguars finally got on track later in the period, playing Notre Dame virtually even the remainder of the half and even getting as close as seven points before the Irish stretched their lead back into double figures (42-29) by the intermission. In the opening 20 minutes, Notre Dame scored 22 points off IUPUI turnovers and scored 30 points in the paint.
The even nature of the game continued into the initial moments of the second half, with the Irish content to go basket-for-basket with the Jaguars while rotating in numerous lineup combinations. A 14-3 Notre Dame run, capped by a three-pointer from senior forward Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./St. Paul), hiked the Irish lead to 67-43 with 9:52 remaining. Notre Dame continued to keep its expanded 20-point edge for the next five minutes before IUPUI closed the contest on a 13-2 run.
The Irish will return to action Tuesday night when they pay a visit to Valparaiso for their annual contest with the Crusaders. Tip time from the Athletics-Recreation Center is set for 7:05 p.m. CT (8:05 p.m. ET in South Bend), with the game to be televised live in northern Indiana by WHME-TV (Channel 46 in South Bend) and Lakeshore Public Television (available in northwest Indiana/suburban Chicago).
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame has opened with at least a 7-3 record for the third consecutive year, fourth time in five seasons and the ninth time in the 12-year Irish membership with the BIG EAST Conference ... Notre Dame has won 12 consecutive home games against first-time opponents and is 32-5 (.865) overall against new opponents since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96; IUPUI is the 171st different opponent in Irish women's basketball history, and the first of two new faces this year (also Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28) ... Notre Dame improves to 21-0 all-time against the current Mid-Continent Conference alignment, including an 11-0 mark at home ... the aggressive Irish defense was out in force again today, forcing 23 IUPUI turnovers (the ninth time in 10 games this year Notre Dame has come up with 20-or-more takeaways) ... the Irish also logged double-digit steals for the eighth time this season (6-2 record) and are averaging 12.6 thefts per game this year (Notre Dame was 22nd in the nation in that category entering this week's games) ... the Irish are 4-0 this year when leading at halftime and 162-10 (.942) in such games during the past 12 seasons ... Notre Dame shot 80 percent from the foul line for the seventh time in 10 games (6-1 record) and lift their season free throw percentage to .781 (the Irish were 11th in the nation in that category entering this week's games) ... Notre Dame scored a season-high 42 points in the first half against IUPUI (previous high was 39 in the season opener vs. Central Michigan on Nov. 10) ... the Irish bench outscored the IUPUI reserves, 24-23, marking the eighth time in 10 games this year the Notre Dame second unit has topped its counterparts (7-1 record) ... Melissa D'Amico's previous 20-point outing came against Arkansas State on Dec. 17, 2005 at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas ... D'Amico also tied her career best with three blocks (twice before, most recently vs. Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006) ... Tulyah Gaines' previous high for steals in a game was four, which she set on three occasions (last: at Penn State on Nov. 16, 2006) ... Breona Gray tied her career high with five assists, matching the mark she set twice before (most recently back on Nov. 19, 2006, vs. Western Michigan) ... Erica Williamson converted a career-best five free throws.