Notre Dame's Natalie Novosel dribbles around West Virginia's Korinne Campbell during second half action at Purcell Pavilion. (Tribune Photo/ MIKE HARTMAN)
When Notre Dame fell behind by as many as 13 points early in the second half to West Virginia, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw had no doubt who the Irish could depend on to trigger a reversal. Lindsay Schrader, a 6-foot senior, didn’t get a single shot in the first half of Sunday’s Big East Conference battle against West Virginia, and the Irish trailed, 42-31, at halftime. In the second half, Schrader came through to help the Irish rally for a 74-66 victory against the Mountaineers. The Irish (17-1 overall, 4-1 Big East) are back in action on Wednesday night against Providence (7 p.m. EST). “Every huddle, if we need a basket, we’re talking about Lindsay,” McGraw said of Schrader. “We’re talking about, what do you want to run, so we can get Lindsay the ball. When we’re not scoring, we’re going to look and try to find Lindsay because she’s got so many mismatches. They have guards trying to guard her down there, and we needed to try and take advantage of that.” Schrader averages 11.5 points, and connects on 55.8 percent of her shots (87-of-156). Last week, Schrader was particularly torrid. She hit five of six shots in Notre Dame’s 78-60 victory against Louisville Tuesday. On Sunday, she nailed six of eight. She averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds in the two games last week. “The seniors knew what we had to do,” Schrader said of stepping up in the second half. “We had to be calm. We had to breathe a little bit. We weren’t playing defense. I don’t know how many wide-open 3s they had, wide-open. I think I can even make that shot.” When Schrader, who has only taken one shot from 3-point range all season, made the comment that even she could make a wide-open 3, it brought a quick response from teammate Skylar Diggins. “Let’s not carried away,” Diggins jabbed at Schrader. “Oh, she’s got jokes,” Schrader responded.
McGraw earned her 600th career victory on the road last Tuesday at Louisville. She was honored earlier this season for picking up her 500th victory at Notre Dame, and wasn’t expecting any fanfare on Sunday’s game at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. But when McGraw walked out of the tunnel and started to make her way to the Irish bench before Sunday’s game, she received a standing ovation from fans holding green signs emblazoned with the No. 600. “Coming out of the locker room before the game is a moment that I’m going to remember my entire career,” McGraw said. “I didn’t know it was going to be going on, and I was praying that Stephanie (Menio) didn’t do anything to embarrass me again,” McGraw joked. “I was really touched by that, and the emotion of the moment really kind of carried me away. It was really special.” McGraw was referring to a special post-game ceremony commemorating the 500th victory at Notre Dame orchestrated by Menio, Notre Dame’s coordinator of basketball operations.
Notre Dame’s capacity crowd of 9,149 on Sunday was the second sellout of the season for the women and the eighth in the program’s history. McGraw said that the spirited crowd played a key role in rallying the Irish. “We needed the crowd,” McGraw said. “I noticed them when we were starting to make our run. We’d cut it to eight, and then six, and that was a key piece of it. We were feeding off of the crowd and really got energy from them. “They’re always trying to help us,” McGraw said of the Irish fans. “They’re the best sixth man in basketball right now. They know when we need help, and we needed a lot of help in the first half.”
Diggins earned Big East Freshman of the Week honors for her efforts last week for the third time. Diggins tormented Louisville and West Virginia for an average of 17.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals a game. She hit 53.8 percent of her shots, including three of six 3-pointers.