Fighting Irish keeps up momentum, to face Villanova next

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Lindsay Schrader had 16 points and Natalie Novosel added 15 as Notre Dame (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) defeated St. John's 62-45 Saturday in the second round of the Big East tournament.

The Irish (23-8) will play fourth-seeded Villanova in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

St. John's Da'Shena Stevens, chosen the Big East freshman of the year on Friday, had 12 points for the Red Storm (17-14).

The teams traded the lead five times in the second half and St. John's led 35-33 before the Irish went on a 16-2 run. Novosel scored seven points and Melissa Lechlitner had five during that stretch.

A 3-pointer by Ashley Barlow at the shot-clock buzzer gave the Irish a 58-45 lead with 3:53 left, and Notre Dame cruised from there.

"It's like the dagger to the defense," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "You play great defense for 29 seconds and then somebody hits a three and it really deflated them."

Notre Dame opened the game on a 9-2 run, despite hitting just two of its first 10 shots. St. John's also was 2-of-10 from the field early and had just six points midway through the first half.

But the Red Storm kept chipping away, and Sky Lindsay's driving layup with a minute left gave them a 22-20 lead at intermission.

"I felt like we ran out gas a little bit, missed some chippies, allowed them to score some easy baskets," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said.

The Irish have won five of their past six games, with only a 10-point loss at top-ranked Connecticut on Feb. 22.

St. John's, the 13th-seed, had lost six of seven games going into the tournament, but made it into the second round by upsetting Syracuse 63-61 on Friday.

St. John's has played without Monique McLean, a second-team all-conference selection, who was suspended last month after a drunken-driving arrest.

"You lose your leading scorer, your leading rebounder at the end of the season and our kids could have crumbled," Barnes Arico said. "But they really pulled together and I think they really showed something about their character these last couple games."