Irish gut out 72-70 win over Syracuse
The Notre Dame women’s basketball squad (11-17, 6-10) received a career high 21-point performance from Mikki Vaughn, while the Fighting Irish defense notched a gritty performance in the final minutes to defeat Syracuse (15-12, 9-7), 72-70.
“We finally got off to a great start. Just a gutty performance down the stretch. Vaughn was the player of the game to me. She hit the shot with no time on the shot clock, the two free throws and taking the charge. She got a career high today and played a great game,” Karen & Kevin Keyes Family head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We wavered a bit in the fourth, but happy we held on for the win.”
With 1:02 remaining, Vaughn hit two clutch free throws to break a 70-70 tie and push the Irish out ahead. Notre Dame’s defense then iced the game with two big defensive stands, including one right at the buzzer.
How It Happened
The Irish were red-hot out of the gate, converting eight of their first 10 shots to jump out to a 23-5 lead. Brunelle picked right up where she left off on Thursday, hitting two threes within the first three minutes. The best part of the start was that all five starters had scored by the 6:36 mark.
Notre Dame ended the period up 27-11, recording the second most points in an opening quarter this season (scored 30 against DePaul). On the flip side, the Irish held Syracuse to 3-of-17 shooting.
Walker had her 10th point of the game by 8:13 in the second, and by the half, both Vaughn and Brunelle joined her in double figures with the Irish up 44-33. The Irish shot just over 50 percent for the half, while Syracuse went three-heavy, attempting 35 total shots in the half in which 23 were from beyond the arc.
Syracuse edged Notre Dame, 21-18 in the third, cutting the deficit to single digits at 62-54. The Orange continued to chip away, as the visitors narrowed it all the way down to 64-63. Enter Vaughn, who stymied the attack with a critical layup at 4:34. Gilbert then stepped up and delivered back-to-back layups to give the Irish a 70-65 advantage with 3:04 remaining.
Later tied at 70-all with 1:02 left, Vaughn converted her two free throws to push the Irish back on top. Fast forward to 10.1 seconds remaining and it’s Syracuse ball at mid-court out of a timeout. The Orange attempted two shots during their final possession but the Irish defense stood tall for the 72-70 win.
Walker tied her career high of six assists to go with her 16 points. Brunelle nearly finished with a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. Then Gilbert rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12 points, six assists and three steals.
Today marked the 38th meeting between Notre Dame and Syracuse. The Irish lead the all-time series 35-3 with an unblemished 17-0 mark at home.
Notre Dame avenged a regular-season loss with a regular-season win for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Back then, the Irish were nipped 81-80 at home by Big East rival DePaul, and later won 66-64 in Chicago.
With three treys, Brunelle now has 47 on the season and surpasses Beth (Morgan) Cunningham for the second most in a freshman season. Alicia Ratay holds the top mark with 73.
Notre Dame scored the second most points in an opening quarter this season with 27. The Irish tallied 30 in the first versus DePaul. However, the Irish did notch their best first quarter shooting percentage, converting 59 percent of their shots (10-of-17).
Walker logged her seventh straight game in double figures and 23rd of the season after recording 16 points on Sunday. Walker rounded out her stat line with six boards, a career high tying six assists and three steals.
Brunelle recorded her 20th game in double figures with 15 points, and nearly earned a double-double with nine rebounds.
Notre Dame earned 20 assists on 27 made field goals. It marked their fourth 20-assist game of the season.
Gilbert tallied her 23rd game in double figures as well with 12 points.
Sniezek tied her season high of seven rebounds.
For the second straight game, Cole achieved a career high six rebounds.
The Irish will compete in their home finale on Thursday, Feb. 27, against North Carolina, which means Senior Day inside Purcell Pavilion. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, streaming live on ACCNX. The Irish will honor both Katie Cole and Marta Sniezek.