Jan. 21, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind (AP) - From the opening tip, when Devereaux Peters broke loose for a layup five seconds into the game and converted a three-point play, it was another dominant performance by No. 2 Notre Dame.
"The tip play was huge. We have been trying to do that all year and we finally got it. That got everyone excited. It set the tone and everyone had energy," Peters said Saturday after the Irish routed Villanova 76-43 for their 16th straight victory.
Peters singlehandedly outscored Villanova 17-16 in the first half - the Irish led 44-16 - and finished with 19 points. Skylar Diggins led the Irish with 20 and Notre Dame had only nine turnovers, while forcing 20 against the outmatched Wildcats.
"We were just really trying to take care of the ball but still keep our pace and attack, I think that's what it was. We were attacking and opening up opportunities and making ourselves available," Diggins said. "I guess you can call it the luck of the Irish. We are just playing good ball with each other now and taking care of the ball."
Notre Dame (19-1) remained unbeaten at 7-0 in the BIG EAST Conference, and won its fourth straight game by more than 20 points. The Irish's national championship team won its first 23 games in 2000-01.
Rachel Roberts scored 14 to lead Villanova (12-7, 2-4). The Wildcats had 20 turnovers.
Villanova coach Harry Perretta was not with the team because of a death in the family. A team spokesman said Perretta attended a funeral Saturday and would return to practice Sunday. Assistant coach Joe Mullaney ran the team in his absence.
In the first half, Peters scored 17 points, Notre Dame had only two turnovers and Villanova went 7 of 23 from the field as the Irish built a 44-16 lead at the break. The Irish shot 52 percent in the half.
The rout was on early, with the Irish making 12 of 17 shots for a 32-11 lead. During the same 12-minute span, the overmatched Wildcats connected on just 5 of 13 shots and turned the ball over seven times, thanks to the Notre Dame press.
Peters opened 5 of 6 from the field and Diggins was 4 of 6 with three early assists.
Next up for the Irish is No. 9 Tennessee on Monday night in a rematch from last spring's NCAA regional won by the Irish. The tempo will be a lot faster.
"This game was hard to play before Tennessee. I think these two teams are the antithesis of each other. We learned nothing today that we are going to use against Tennessee," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.
"Certainly, offensively, it is going to be a different flow. It was really a bad game to have two days before Tennessee, considering we have to switch gears. I thought the good thing we did today was that our pace was good. We kept pushing the ball and we are certainly going to want to do that on Monday."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame extends its winning streak to 16 games, the third-longest in school history and longest since 2000-01, when the Fighting Irish opened that season on a school-record 23-game winning streak ... that 2000-01 campaign also marked the last time Notre Dame began a BIG EAST season with a record of 7-0 or better (currently the fourth-best start in school history) -- in '00-01, the Fighting Irish opened conference play with a 12-0 record ... Notre Dame posted its 16th 20-point win, and 10th 30-point victory of the season (the latter tying the 2000-01 and 2007-08 Fighting Irish squads for second-most in school history) ... the Fighting Irish held their opponent to 50 points or fewer for the 13th time this year, one shy of the school record set last season ... for the 12th time this season, Notre Dame opened up a 20-point lead less than 13 minutes into the game, going on to win those 12 contests by an average of 50.9 points per game ... the Fighting Irish forced at least 20 opponent turnovers for the 15th time this season (Villanova came into the game leading the nation with just 11.9 turnovers per game, but had nine at halftime) ... Notre Dame also recorded double-digit steals for the 15th time this season ... conversely, Notre Dame tied its season low with nine turnovers, a mark it set four days ago against Pittsburgh -- the last time the Fighting Irish had consecutive games with 10 turnovers or fewer was Dec. 8 & 11, 2010, when they had 10 apiece in wins at Providence and at home against Creighton ... Notre Dame had four double-figure scorers for the 11th time this season and moves to 45-4 (.918) in the past three years when at least four players scored 10-plus points ... the Fighting Irish improve to 18-10 all-time against Villanova (9-2 at home), winning their third consecutive game against the Wildcats (something neither side had done in the series since Notre Dame won a series-long six in a row from March 1, 1998-Dec. 6, 2000) ... the 33-point margin was the second-largest in the series, topped only by an 81-46 Fighting Irish win on Jan. 9, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion ... in each of the past seven series games, Villanova came into the game ranked among the top five in the nation in fewest turnovers (never more than 13 giveaways per game), yet the Wildcats are averaging 20.7 turnovers per game against the Fighting Irish in that span ... Notre Dame was held without a three-point field goal for the first time since Jan. 29, 2011, when it went 0-for-4 at Villanova ... sophomore forward Ariel Braker tied her career high with 10 points, matching the mark she first set on Nov. 26, 2010, against IUPUI at Purcell Pavilion -- Braker is the 10th different Notre Dame player to score in double figures this year ... senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel extended her streak of consecutive games scoring in double figures to 27 in a row, second-longest in school history ... junior guard Skylar Diggins posted her team-high eighth 20-point game of the season and the 25th of her career (eighth in school history) ... Diggins moved up to 14th place on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,391 points, passing Shari Matvey (1,371 from 1979-83) ... Novosel rose to 17th place on the Fighting Irish career scoring list with 1,297 points, passing Megan Duffy (1,290 from 2002-06) ... Novosel also moved into fourth place in school history with 390 career free throws made, passing Alicia Ratay (387 from 1999-2003) ... fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters assumed sole possession of third place on the Fighting Irish all-time blocked shot chart with 168, breaking out a tie with Jacqueline Batteast (167 from 2001-05) ... fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory appeared in her 132nd career game, tying current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (1996-2001) for second on the school's career games played list -- Mallory's former teammate, Becca Bruszewski, holds the record with 136 games played from 2007-11 ... head coach Muffet McGraw registered win No. 575 in her 25th season at Notre Dame ... the Fighting Irish drew their fourth sellout of the season (all in the past six games), as well as their 15th sellout in the past three years and the 21st in school history.