Newark, NJ - After an early challenge, Notre Dame pulled away in the second period en route to a convincing 104-57 rout of NJIT on Sunday afternoon. The game was played at NJIT’s Joel and Diane Bloom Wellness and Events Center on the NJIT campus. Tenth ranked Notre Dame is now 1-1 while the host Highlanders are now 2-1. The points of emphasis:
NJIT did not waver. Notre Dame posed problems with their size. The Highlanders , however, looked to attack the basket. Despite having a few attempts blocked, they stayed with the game plan. Following the first period NJIT kept pace. Early in the next stanza the Fighting Irish began to pull away. They increased a seven point lead after the first period to a 23 point advantage at intermission.
"We showed fight today and emotion," NJIT coach Mike Lane said. "I am proud of our start. We had energy and everybody in the building had it as well. In the second period when things got away from us you could sense the crowd energy got away as well. For the first fifteen minutes we really competed with them and I think that’s something our team will remember."
Lane added that, "there were a lot of positives from this game. We did things offensively and even defensively well…there is a lot to take out of this game."
Defensive ball pressure. Hannah Hidalgo scored 31 points in the loss to South Carolina in Paris. in her first collegiate outing. She tied teammate Sonia Citron for game scoring honors with 26 on Sunday. Obviously the 5’6" freshman guard could put points on the board.
Not to be overlooked is her outstanding defense. She tied a school record with a dozen steals on Sunday. In addition, virtually every possession she applied disruptive defensive pressure on the opposing guards.
"She has a special gift," Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said of her freshman prodigy. "She loves to defend. It makes her so special that she is willing to defend and still make offensive contributions."
Citron, a junior guard added, "she’s a great player. It may be surprising to other people because she’s a freshman, but our team has known the impact she would have from the beginning."
What to work on. Lane called it ‘a learning experience’. Specifically, what lessons were learned and how can his group improve? "We have to get better with our physicality," Lane admitted. "In our America East (Conference) we will not see teams as physical as Notre Dame. Regardless, we will see physical teams and have to be ready for that. We need better physicality in rebounding and taking care of the ball. We need to be stronger with the ball to prevent turnovers."
Notre Dame won the battle of the boards by a 40-30 count. They also forced the Highlanders into committing 27 turnovers.
Satisfying win for the Irish. On the surface, a trip to Paris would seem enjoyable. On the court it was anything but that for the Irish. The convincing defeat at the hands of South Carolina last week was a concern to coach Niele Ivey.
"I’m excited about the win," Ivey said. "When we got back (from Paris) we spent the week in practice working on defense. Today our defense was very good and we got contributions from everyone." All five starters for Notre Dame hit double figures in the scoring column.
Numbers and notes. In a 77 possession game Notre Dame held a 137-73 advantage in offensive efficiency. NJIT was led in scoring by Alejandra Zunigas, a sophomore guard who penetrated the opposing defense well, with 14. Senior guard Lyzi Litwinko added 10 points for the Highlanders. NJIT had a 18-16 edge in offensive rebounds. On the flip side, Notre Dame enjoyed a 62-26 advantage in points in the paint. NJIT was forced into a 28% turnover rate. Irish capitalized with a 36-7 lead in points off turnovers. Attendance was 1,631. That was the most for a regular home date (excluding Education Day games).
"The atmosphere was awesome inside the WEC," Lane said. "It wasn’t just a Power 5 playing a mid-major. It was a great environment."
Kathleen Lonergan, former DI official and currently a regional observer of officials was also courtside evaluating the crew.
Notre Dame hosts Northwestern on Wednesday. Rider visits NJIT on the same night.