No. 1-seed Notre Dame opened NCAA Tournament play Friday night at the Purcell Pavilion with a 79-49 victory versus Robert Morris.
Unlike the team that appeared to reach peak form the last two weeks of the regular season, notably an 84-61 victory versus No. 9 Duke in the ACC Championship, the Fighting Irish were not as sharp after 12-day break from games but were still able to overwhelm the No. 16 seed Colonials.
Although Notre Dame committed 16 turnovers, its dominance was reflected with the disparity in points in the paint (44-14) and rebounds (52-23). The Colonials converted only 17-of-64 from the field (26.6 percent).
Head coach Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish will host Purdue (23-12) on Sunday at the Purcell Pavilion for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 at the Lexington (Ky.) Regional. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. and will be telecast by ESPN2. In the earlier game on Friday at Notre Dame, the Boilermakers defeated Green Bay, 74-62.
Senior point guard Lindsay Allen stuffed the stat sheet again with 14 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in 30 minutes. Sophomore guards Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey tallied 15 points apiece, with Ogunbowale also pulling down 10 rebounds. Junior Brianna Turner achieved a double-double as well with 13 points and 10 rebounds, although she was only 5-of-12 from the field after normally falling in the 60-percent range.
A 12-0 run by the Irish after the game was tied at 10 began the separation, although a sloppy second quarter saw Notre Dame out-score Robert Morris only 15-13 in those 10 minutes for a 39-25 halftime lead. Sparked by Allen’s drives into openings off ball screens, the Irish continued to extend the cushion.
“We got the ‘W,’ ” McGraw summarized of the win. “We’re not going to watch the film … this time of the year you move on.
1. Westbeld Under Wraps — Junior forward Kathryn Westbeld was dressed for the game and available in case of emergency, but McGraw brought her an extra day off her feet. The bruised bone in Westbeld’s ankle is at the point where it’s not going to be fully healed this season. From here on out, though, she will be needed in the lineup.
Meanwhile, junior guard Mychal Johnson, who has battled a shoulder injury, saw her most extensive action in months with 16 minutes. The playing time was spread fairly liberally with the nine available players (senior reserve center Diamond Thompson was not at the game because of illness, per the University). Everyone played at least 15 minutes, with senior Kristina Nelson contributing eight points, four rebounds and one assist off the bench.
2. Emotional Return —Purdue head basketball coach Sharon Versyp, who has led the Boilermakers to their ninth NCAA bid in her 11 seasons, was Indiana Miss Basketball in 1984 who played at nearby Mishawaka High School before a superb college career at Purdue. On March 6 she announced her early stage of breast cancer has been caught and will be treated after the season.
Only 15-11 at one point this year and seemingly out of NCAA Tournament conversation, the Boilermakers embarked on a seven-game winning streak highlighted by a victory over No. 9 Ohio State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament (71-60) before losing to Maryland in the title game (74-64). They also gave current No. 6 Stanford (the 2-seed in the Lexington Regional) a battle earlier in the year before falling 78-69.
3. State History — Purdue leads the all-time series 14-12 against Notre Dame, but the Irish have won the last seven, the most recent occurring in 2012. The most famous of all the battles was Notre Dame’s 68-66 triumph in the 2001 NCAA Championship game.
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