ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- Melissa Lechlitner scored 15 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures as the Fighting Irish (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) defeated South Carolina 78-55 in the Paradise Jam on Friday.
Ashley Barlow scored 14 points for Notre Dame (5-0). Skylar Diggins contributed 12 points and Becca Bruszewski had 11.Valeria Nainima led South Carolina (2-3) with 15 points, and Kelsey Bone scored 14 points.Notre Dame went on a 15-2 run midway through the first half and led by as many as 17 points at 40-23."I loved the second-half defense," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I thought we did an outstanding job in the zone. I thought we got out and guarded the shooter in the second half."After South Carolina pulled to within six early in the second half, the Irish reeled off an 11-0 run and cruised from there.Notre Dame takes on Oklahoma (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) on Saturday. South Carolina plays San Diego State (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP).Lechlitner, a 5-foot-7 guard, hit 6-of-12 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers."The screen and rolls were really open, because they were going under," Lechlitner said. "It opened free-throw jumpers wide open for a lot of us. We got a lot of easy looks in transition. In our half-court game, they would go two people with a back-door cutter, and it would leave me or whoever open."South Carolina coach Dawn Staley's club is playing three ranked teams in three days in the Paradise Jam. The Gamecocks lost to Oklahoma 75-67 on Thursday."It's tough for a young team, but I'd rather play these teams than get three 60-point blowouts," Staley said. "I would rather play a competitive schedule, because the other thing does nothing but blow our heads up and make us think we're better than what we are. We will learning from being in this tournament.