SOUTH BEND -- Never threatened, but never thriving in the first half, No. 2 seed Notre Dame broke away in the second half to blast Cleveland State, 86-58, Sunday in first-round action of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at Notre Dame. Notre Dame (28-5) battles No. 10 seed Vermont (27-6) on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2) for a berth to the Sweet Sixteen. Tuesday’s winner will advance to the Kansas City Regional. Vermont advanced with a 64-55 victory against Wisconsin on Sunday. Cleveland State, champions of the Horizon League tournament, bows out with a 19-14 record. Notre Dame took a 34-25 lead into the locker room at halftime, but even during an 18-2 run, Notre Dame looked sluggish on offense. That changed in the second half when Notre Dame connected on 11 of its first 14 shots. While the Irish were sizzling, Cleveland State hit only one of its first 10 shots, allowing the Irish to go on a 16-6 run and grab a 50-31 lead. Becca Bruszewski scored 14 points to lead a balanced Irish attack. Ashley Barlow contributed 13 points and Devereaux Peters scored 12 points. Notre Dame freshman Skylar Diggins had eight assists and seven rebounds. Kailey Klein led Cleveland State with 31 points, including 21 in the first half. Klein was 9-of-15 shooting in the first half, but was limited to 3-of-8 in the second half. The Vikings’ guard didn’t score a field goal in the second half until there was 8:14 left in the game. Stephanie Crosley scored Cleveland State’s first basket of the first half, and scored Cleveland State’s last basket of the first half. In between, Klein accounted for all the rest of the Vikings’ points, scoring 21 in the first half. Klein’s driving layup sliced Notre Dame’s lead to 24-21 with 4:14 left in the first half. Notre Dame gave itself some breathing room, going on a 10-4 run to close the half with a nine-point lead. Defense wasn’t a problem for Notre Dame in the first half. In a 19-possession stretch, the Irish harassed Cleveland State into nine turnovers and 0-of-8 shooting. During Notre Dame’s 18-2 run, Cleveland State scored only two free throws, suffering through a drought of 9:08 without a field goal. But Notre Dame hit only 7-of-18 shots and threw the ball away seven times during the same stretch.
Staff writer Curt Rallo: email@example.com (574) 235-6152