WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Notre Dame holds off Toledo by a trey

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND

Staring down and denying a third straight defeat, Notre Dame created a buzz Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion by repeatedly forcing a buzz.

Those buzzes were a trio of fourth-quarter shot-clock violations by Toledo as the defensively determined Irish rallied for a 54-51 women’s basketball victory.

It wasn’t just shot-clock violations, either, that highlighted ND’s defensive stands.

Appearing to operate almost on fumes, Sam Brunelle’s alert jump out on a potential game-tying 3-point shot with 0.8 seconds left forced a traveling call on Mariella Santucci, clinched the game and capped a brilliant performance by the Notre Dame freshman.

“I thought the defensive stops down the stretch were key,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought our communication was better. We kept our poise.”

The array of stops also included Martz Sniezek’s slick read of a Rocket weave play that netted her a steal. It set up Destinee Walker’s knee-buckling move and 18-footer on the right wing to give ND a 54-49 lead, matching its largest of the night, at 1:55 remaining.

The Irish (3-2) broke their first two-game losing skid in nine years and dodged their first three-gamer since March 2007.

Brunelle scored 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, blocked three shots — all game highs — and became the first player ever to reach double-digit points in each of her first five games in a Notre Dame uniform.

“I’m just in the game and don’t think about the fatigue,” said Brunelle, one of three ND players to log at least 37 minutes, along with Walker and sophomore Katlyn Gilbert.

“When we’re playing, I’m only worried about scoring or playing defense,” Brunelle said.

Walker added 12 points, while Gilbert scored 11 to go with three steals.

Toledo (1-2) led from midway through the first quarter until Gilbert’s 10-footer with 4:48 to go in the fourth put the Irish up 47-46.

That came immediately after what was at least the Rockets’ fifth shot-clock violation of the evening.

Junior Nakiah Black paced Toledo with 12 points. Freshman forward Mali Morgan-Elliott added 10.

The Rockets led 33-26 at halftime, after also owning a pair of nine-point advantages during the second quarter.

Notre Dame got to within one point on three occasions in the third quarter, but could never draw even or go ahead. Toledo took a 44-41 lead into the final period.

The Rockets used a 9-0 spurt to take an 11-6 lead at the 3:34 mark of the opening quarter.

While glaring depth deficiencies may make the Irish vulnerable late in games, it was also a slow start that plagued the team yet again.

The Irish, down 18-10 after one quarter, managed just 10 points in the opening period for the second straight outing.

They had trailed 17-10 at the first stop in their 72-69 loss last week to No. 16 Michigan State and 21-14 through one quarter on the way to being downed 74-63 by now-No. 23 Tennessee a few days earlier.

Notre Dame, a 72-56 winner last season, beat Toledo for the sixth straight time.

The Irish visit No. 21 Michigan (4-0) for a 1 p.m. tip Saturday.

That’s followed by three games in three days at the Cancun Challenge in Mexico, starting on Thanksgiving.

The team’s next home contest is Wednesday, Dec. 4, against Minnesota as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

NOTRE DAME 54, TOLEDO 51

TOLEDO (1-2): Beacham 2-8 0-0 4, Morgan-Elliott 4-7 0-0 10, Black 5-13 1-1 12, Davis 4-9 0-0 9, Santucci 0-7 3-4 3, Whitaker 3-4 0-0 6, Carlsten-Handberg 0-0 0-0 0, Lockett 1-3 0-0 3, Rokkanen 0-5 0-0 0, Wiard 2-5 0-0 4, Totals 21-61 4-5 51.<

NOTRE DAME (3-2): Brunelle 6-12 6-10 19, Gilbert 4-15 3-4 11, Peoples 3-10 1-3 7, Sniezek 0-0 2-2 2, Walker 6-17 0-0 12, Cosgrove 1-4 0-0 2, Cole 0-0 1-2 1, Totals 20-58 13-21 54.<

Toledo;18;15;11;7;—;51

Notre Dame;10;16;15;13;—;54

3-Point Goals—Toledo 5-25 (Morgan-Elliott 2-5, Black 1-5, Davis 1-5, Santucci 0-3, Lockett 1-3, Rokkanen 0-4), Notre Dame 1-10 (Brunelle 1-6, Gilbert 0-1, Walker 0-3). Assists—Toledo 11 (Santucci 5), Notre Dame 8 (Sniezek 3). Fouled Out—Notre Dame Peoples. Rebounds—Toledo 42 (Black 9), Notre Dame 40 (Brunelle 13). Total Fouls—Toledo 16, Notre Dame 13. Technical Fouls—None.A—7,269.

Notre Dame’s Kaitlin Cole (2) fights for a rebound while Toledo’s Mariella Santucci (3) and Mali Morgan-Elliott (11) defend during Wednesday’s game in South Bend.
Notre Dame's Marta Sniezek, left, is called for a charge as Toledo's Mariah Copeland defends during Wednesday's game in South Bend.
Toledo's Quinesha Lockett, left, tries to get the ball away from Notre Dame's Anaya Peoples during Wednesday's game in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s Danielle Cosgrove (22) drives against Toledo’s Arianne Whitaker (25) during Wednesday's game in South Bend.