Notre Dame, Ind. — The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team was outscored 50-23 by #23 Notre Dame in the first half, but the Lady Toppers held the Fighting Irish to just 28 points in the second half and outscored them by eight before falling 78-59 Tuesday night in the second round of the Preseason Women‘s National Invitation Tournament.
The Lady Toppers will host Evansville if their final game of the Preseason WNIT on Friday (Nov. 16) at 7 p.m. (CST) at Diddle Arena.
Tickets for Friday’s game are currently on sale. Season ticket holders will have until 4:30 p.m. on Thursday to reserve their same seats.
“My challenge to this team at halftime was to see what they were made of from a pride standpoint,” said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. “We told each other a lot about his team by how hard they fought and clawed in the second half. We are in no way happy with this loss, but we showed some good things that we can build on from this point forward.”
After Ashley Barlow and Kenzie Rich traded threes to open the scoring, Notre Dame (2-0) used a Erica Williamson layup to spark a 12-0 run as it opened up a 15-3 lead on a Lindsay Schrader three. The Lady Toppers (1-1) went nearly four minutes without a point in that stretch before Hope Brown knocked down a jumper to pull WKU back within 10 (15-5) at the 14:15 mark.
The Lady Toppers would get as close as nine when Whitney Ballinger jumper at the 12:23 mark made it a 19-10 game, but the Fighting Irish — who forced 13 WKU turnovers in the opening half — stretched the advantage back into double figures and took a 20-point lead at the 6:02 when another Barlow three made it a 36-16 game. That shot came in the middle of a 9-0 run late in the half, and Notre Dame was able to push the lead to 48-20 late in the half before taking a 50-23 advantage into the locker room at intermission.
The Irish shot 51.4 percent from the field in the first half, while holding WKU to just 31 percent shooting. Barlow paced Notre Dame with 13 points, while Ballinger scored six points off the bench to lead the Lady Toppers at halftime.
Both Dominique Duck and Crystal Kelly went to the bench with four fouls for WKU in the first three minutes of the second half. Notre Dame took advantage as it stretched the lead to 30 points when a Charel Allen layup made it 60-30 at the 14:57 mark. The Irish lead got as high as 32 when a Melissa D'Amico layup made ti 68-36 with 11:10 to play, but WKU did not allow its deficit to grow any larger as it traded baskets and then used an 11-2 run to pull within 23 points when a Kenzie Rich layup made ti 72-49 with 6:07 to play. Notre Dame got the lead back up to 25 points, but WKU closed the game on an 8-2 run to cut the final margin to 19 points.
For the second straight game, Rich led the Lady Toppers in scoring with 15 points, while Ballinger came off the bench to drop in 14 points and pull down seven rebounds. Charlotte Marshall finished the night with a game-high 10 rebounds. Barlow paced the Irish with 18 points, while Allen tossed in 16 and Melissa Lechlitner added 12.