SOUTH BEND — Ross and Candace Hales had some of the best seats in the house Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.
The couple were seated in the first row behind the bench of the Valparaiso women’s basketball team. Their daughter, Grace, is a freshman guard for the Crusaders, who were in town to face the No. 1-ranked Fighting Irish.
Before the game, Ross Hales shared he was hoping Valparaiso could keep it close for a time and that they would score first so the Crusaders could say they led the No. 1 team in the country.
For a while it looked liked the former wish might come true as the Irish missed four consecutive shots to begin the game. Unfortunately for the Hales’ rooting interests, Notre Dame then caught fire and by 3:25 of the first period it was 26-0 and the Irish were well on their way to a 114-54 win.
“We had to settle in a little bit, but once we did we had a great start,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We were able to work on some things. We had a lot of energy early in the game. We were able to execute our offense without turning the ball over a lot (14 turnovers) which is not easy to do when you have a big lead.”
The Irish lead 34-7 at the end of the first quarter and were up 74-23 at halftime.
“Notre Dame is a really good team that was on a mission early on,” Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow said. “We were on our heels early on and Notre Dame put us there. The Irish put a lot of pressure on us and we did not respond well. Coach McGraw runs a very classy program. She could have run the score up on us, but she didn’t.”
Notre Dame entered the game with a 7-0 record compared to 3-3 for the Crusaders.
“It was exciting for us to play a team like Notre Dame with their size and speed,” Dorow said. “But nothing went easy and then things snowballed.”
One of the things that didn’t go easy for the Crusaders was Hales who entered the game averaging 16.9 minutes of playing time over the season’s first seven games. She played just nine minutes on Sunday.
The Westview High School graduate was dibbling the ball up the floor when an Irish player challenged her. The two collided and Hales went down to the floor. She remained on the floor for a time before going to the bench and taking a seat next to the team’s trainer for the rest of the contest.
“My head hit the floor and I was a little dizzy,” Hales said. “I should be fine.”
The Crusaders are idle until hosting Grace College (Winona Lake) Saturday and traveling to Indiana University next Sunday.
“Hales was dizzy and we were worried about a concussion,” Dorow said. “The decision was made to hold her out for the rest of the game. She is too valuable to us to risk her in a game like this. We have more important games coming up that we are going to need her for.”
Hales missed her only shot of the day from three-point range. She also grabbed two rebounds. She averaged six points per game over the first seven games of the season.
Follow Greg Keim on Twitter @gkeim_TGN
Notre Dame 114, Valparaiso 54
VALPARAISO — Da ni Franklin 7-15 0-0 18, Caitlin Morrison 1-6 0-0 3, Amber Lindfors 1-1 0-0 2, Meredith Hamlet 3-7 0-0 7, Hannah Schaub 0-0 0-0 0, Maya Meredith 0-1 0-0 0, Georgi Donchetz 4-8 1-1 10, Grace Hales 0-1, 0-0 0, Allison Schofield 3-10 0-0 8, Haylee Thompson 3-8 0-0 6. Team: 22-58 1-1 54
NOTRE DAME — Brianna Turner 6-11 1-2 13, Kathryn Westheld 5-9 0-0 10, Marina Mabrey 7-11 1-2 16, Lindsay Allen 3-5 2-2 8, Arike Ogunbowale 8-12 1-1 18, Jackie Young 8-9 1-1 20, Mychal Johnson 2-4 0-0 6, Kristina Melson 4-6 0-0 8, Erin Boley 5-8 2-2 15. Team:48-75 8-10 114
Valparaiso 7 16 19 12 — 54
Notre Dame 34 38 27 15 — 114
3-point goals: Valparaiso 9-26 (Franklin 4-5, Schofield 2-6, Donchetz 1-2, Hamlet 1-5, Morrison 1-6, Hales 0-1, Meredith 0-1. Notre Dame 10-22 (Boley 2-2, Young 1-1, Mabrey 1-4, Ogumowale 1-4, Westheld 0-1, Fouls: Valparaiso 12, Notre Dame 10. Rebounds: Valparaiso 25 (Franklin 4), Notre Dame 38 (Johnson 6, Nelson 6). Assists: Valparaiso 15 (Donchetz 5). Notre Dame 29 (Allen 6). Steals: Valparaiso 6 (Donchetz 2), Notre Dame 19 (Young 6). Turnovers: Valparaiso 31, Notre Dame 14.