BRONX, N.Y. — With each of its two freshmen starters making productive — albeit uneven — debuts, and with Notre Dame overcoming an injury to junior center Mikayla Vaughn, the Irish escaped against late-rallying Fordham, 60-55, in their women’s basketball season opener Tuesday night at Rose Hill Gym.
Sam Brunelle scored 12 of her 14 points in the opening half and fellow frosh Anaya Peoples netted nine of her 11 after the break as No. 16 Notre Dame won its 25th straight season opener and claimed the 1,000th victory in program history.
The Rams (0-1) charged to as close as 57-55 with 13 seconds to go after trailing 53-43 at five minutes left, before Peoples hit 2-of-4 free throws and Katlyn Gilbert 1-of-2 to seal the game.
The Irish helped themselves down the stretch by scrapping for a handful of offensive rebounds.
Vaughn appeared to injure her right knee with 5:50 to go in the third quarter and Notre Dame leading 39-29. She exited primarily under her own power and even returned for a few seconds later in the period, but did not play after that.
She closed at eight points, nine rebounds and four assists in just 20 minutes.
Gilbert, a sophomore coming off shoulder surgery that sidelined her for most of last season, matched Brunelle for team-high honors with 14 points off the bench, though she was just 4-of-9 at the line.
Brunelle added five rebounds, three assists and two steals to her 14 points. She finished 4-of-12 from the field (1-of-7 in the second half) with a pair of 3-pointers to go with 4-of-4 at the line.
Peoples, who also collected seven rebounds, got her 11 points on 3-of-9 from the field and 5-of-9 at the line. She picked up her second foul just 5:13 into the game and sat out the remainder of the first half with two points.
Destinee Wallker notched a double-double in her Irish debut with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while fellow graduate transfer Marta Sniezek paced the winners in both assists (six) and steals (three).
Brunelle and Peoples became the first pair of Notre Dame freshmen to start the same season opener since Jacqueline Batteast and Teresa Borton in 2001.
Juniors Bre Cavanaugh and Kendell Heremaia scored 14 points apiece for Fordham and combined for 17 rebounds, but Cavanaugh, a returning All-Atlantic 10 selection, was just 6-of-22 from the field.
Freshman Anna DeWolfe just missed a triple-double in her college debut for the Rams with 10 points, nine rebounds and a game-high nine assists.
The Irish play their home opener Friday against Loyola of Maryland, with tip-off at Purcell Pavilion set for 6:30 p.m. It’ll be the Greyhounds’ season opener.