Jan. 23, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) - Second-ranked Notre Dame is making a habit of overcoming slow starts.
Three days after coming back from 12 points down to beat Tennessee by 16, the Irish started 1 for 13 from the field against Miami and fell behind by six before coming back to beat the Hurricanes 79-52 Thursday night.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the slow start snowballed after the Irish missed their first three shots in the opening 23 seconds.
"I think everybody got a little tight then and we needed our veterans to step up and relax and make shots," McGraw said.
The veterans actually were the ones struggling the most early as Natalie Achonwa was 1 for 5 from the floor with three turnovers in the first 5 minutes and Kayla McBride missed her first seven shots. But Achonwa finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, Lindsay Allen added a season-high 16 points and McBride had 15 as the Irish got their 21st straight home victory.
Miami coach Katie Meier was disappointed the Hurricanes couldn't take advantage of Notre Dame's struggles.
"We need to be a lot more opportunistic than that if we want to make some noise in this conference this year," she said. "I think it was an opportunity lost there a little bit in the first half."
Achonwa blamed her slow start on indecision, saying she was shooting "half floaters, half finger rolls" so she started using the backboard more.
"I think I just tried to get a better angle to the basket," she said.
Achonwa also struggled at the free throw line, going 5 for 11 in the first half and finishing 9 of 15.
"I missed the first two and then I thought about it too much," she said.
McGraw was pleased with the way her team overcame the slow start.
"I think we have a lot of resolve, a lot of resilience," she said.
McGraw was most pleased with the play of Allen, especially with leading scorer Jewell Loyd out with a sprained right knee sustained against Tennessee. Allen shot 5 for 6 and had five assists.
"She was probably the only one on the team that really played not just her game, but really played well - one of her best games," McGraw said.
Allen she tried to play a bigger role in scoring with her teammates struggling.
"I just tried to provide some energy. We were missing easy shots, chippies we normally make, so I had to get some stuff in transition, some easy baskets," she said.
After the slow start, the Irish made 10 of their final 19 shots of the first half to open a 35-26 lead the break, and then began the second half with a 10-0 run to take control.
The Irish (18-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) are off to their best start since going 23-0 en route to the national championship in 2000-01. Notre Dame had a 53-35 rebounding edge and outscored the Hurricanes 44-22 in the paint.
Jassany Williams and Adrienne Motley led Miami (11-8, 3-3) with 10 points apiece as the Hurricanes shot a season-low 30.6 percent.
Achonwa is eager to see how the Irish do when they play a complete game.
"The part that would be great is if we could do it in the first half and that we do it without having to be down or without having to be in a close game. That we could just come out with that mentality and destroy people," she said.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 18-0, extending both the second-best start to a season in school history and the fifth-longest winning streak in school history ... the Fighting Irish move their school-record regular season win streak to 41 games and their overall home win streak to 21 (the latter being the third-longest in program history and longest since a 25-game run from Feb. 1, 2003-Nov. 22, 2004) ... Notre Dame has won a school-record 25 consecutive conference games, as well as 13 consecutive league games at home ... the Fighting Irish jump to 394-90 (.814) all-time at Purcell Pavilion including 71-5 (.934) since the start of the 2009-10 campaign ... Notre Dame is now 15-3 (.833) all-time against Miami, including 7-2 (.778) at Purcell Pavilion, and 13-2 (.867) in conference play (both BIG EAST and ACC) ... the Fighting Irish top 70 points for the 12th time in the last 16 meetings with the Hurricanes, while holding Miami to fewer than 60 points for the sixth time in the past nine series games ... in keeping Miami to just 52 points, Notre Dame is 287-15 (.926) since 1995-96 when limiting their opponent under 60 points (9-0 this season) ... Notre Dame had a season-high five double-figure scorers for the third consecutive game (and fifth time this season) ... since 2009-10, the Fighting Irish are 89-5 (.947) when they have FOUR players score in double figures, including a 14-0 record this year and wins in 59 of their last 60 such games ... the Fighting Irish lift their mark when leading at halftime to 294-19 (.939) since 2000-01, including 131-2 (.985) since the start of 2009-10 ... Notre Dame improves to 29-5 (.853) against the state of Florida including 12-3 (.800) at Purcell Pavilion ... the Fighting Irish have won 10 games in a row against Florida schools ... with 15 points Thursday night, senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride moved into 11th place on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,505 points, becoming the 11th Notre Dame player to score 1,500 career points while passing former standout Ashley Barlow (1,492 points from 2006-10) ... freshman guard Lindsay Allen scored a season-high 16 points and made a season-high five free throws ... senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa posted her third 20-point game of the season and 10th of her career with a game-high 23 points ... Achonwa also logged multiple blocked shots for the seventh game in a row, and registered a career-high 15 free throw attempts ... senior forward/tri-captain Ariel Braker grabbed a season high-tying nine rebounds ... sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey earned her first career start, the seventh different Fighting Irish player to start at least once this season ... freshman center Diamond Thompson had a season-high four rebounds in two minutes of action.