VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) --Muffet McGraw fittingly earned another milestone victory close to where she grew up.
McGraw became the 13th coach in Division I history to reach the 700-victory plateau with No. 2 Notre Dame's 59-52 victory over Villanova on Tuesday night. Her career record is now 700-257 in 31 years coaching (612-216 in 26 years at Notre Dame).
McGraw played for Bishop Shanahan in nearby West Chester and collegiately for St. Joseph's. Her first head coaching job was at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, literally down the street from Villanova.
"You know, I feel so blessed, I'm so incredibly lucky to be coaching at Notre Dame and to be surrounded by such class people, all of the players that have come through the last 25 years, the administration, all of the assistant coaches, everyone at Notre Dame has treated me so well," McGraw said. "It did mean more winning at Villanova. My whole family was here and we had about 100 people here, and it was so excited to see so much green. There was a lot of green out there. It did kind of feel like a home game."
This wasn't an easy victory for the Irish (21-1, 9-0 BIG EAST).
"This was a difficult game for us, it's always hard for us to play against Villanova, they just have such a patient offense and we want to go, we want to score 80 points and they really slowed us down," McGraw said. "I thought Natalie Achonwa played really well. I thought all of our guards played well. It was really important for us to have other players step up, and we're capable of having that as a team."
The Irish never trailed, though the game was momentarily tied 19-19 with 5:17 left in the half on Rachel Roberts' 3-pointer. Notre Dame regained control of the game by closing the half on a 10-2 run to enter halftime leading 29-21. Villanova did get within 48-46, on a Devon Kane's 3-pointer with 4:45 left in the game, but the Irish scored 11 of the final 17 points to seal the win.
"I thought we played very well in spurts, and we made mistakes in spurts, the difference against a high-quality team like that is if you make mistakes, they took advantage of every mistake we made," Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. "I thought we played decent on offense. We generated three-point shots on offense and overall it was a good game and we'll just try to get better and show up for the next one."
Emily Leer scored 15 points and Roberts added 14 for the Wildcats (16-6, 5-4).
Diggins started very slow. She missed her first seven shots before scoring on a layup with a minute left in the half. She did give Notre Dame a big boost defensively when Villanova closed to within two on Kane's 3-pointer.
"We got two possessions of good defense, and I think that gives your team a lot of confidence," Diggins said. "We wanted to push the pace because we knew they wanted to slow it down. We got out a caught a couple of sets and got some baskets off of that. They're a tough team to play against, and they want to play offense during the whole shot clock. They all can shoot the ball, so you have to be honest on the 3-point shot. It's a pain to guard, so I'm glad it's my senior year. We're glad we got the win for coach on the road and 700. It's special for her, and for us and for the program."
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POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw becomes the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 700-win milestone, and she is the eighth-fastest Division I coach to hit the mark, doing so in 957 career games -- and quicker than such other notables as North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell (966), Ohio State's Jim Foster (973) and former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan (998), as well as deceased Hall of Fame coaches Sue Gunter (1,004, mainly at LSU) and Kay Yow (1,021, primarily at North Carolina State) ... McGraw now has a 700-257 (.731) record in 31 seasons as a college coach (the first five at Lehigh from 1982-83 through 1986-87), and a 612-216 (.731) record in 26 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) ... the Fighting Irish extend their winning streak to 16 games, the fourth-longest in school history ... Notre Dame earns its school-record 18th consecutive regular-season road win, as well as his 12th consecutive BIG EAST regular-season road win (tying for the second-longest regular-season road win streak in any conference in school history with a 12-game run in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League from Feb. 18, 1992-Jan. 14, 1995) ... the Fighting Irish are off to a 21-1 start through 22 games for the third time in four seasons and the fourth time in school history ... Notre Dame is 9-0 in BIG EAST play for the second consecutive season and fifth time since it entered the BIG EAST in 1995-96 ... the Fighting Irish continue their sharp play in the month of February, improving to 101-28 (.783) since joining the BIG EAST, and 149-43 (.776) in the McGraw era ... the Notre Dame senior class of co-captains Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner led the Fighting Irish to the 116th win of their careers (2009-10 to present), putting the duo one behind last year's group for the most wins by a senior class in school history ... with her layup at 7:05 of the second half, Diggins moved into third place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 2,076 points, passing Ruth Riley (2,072 from 1997-2001) ... junior forward Natalie Achonwa chalked up her BIG EAST-leading 12th double-double (fifth in conference play) ... Notre Dame rises to 19-10 all-time against Villanova, winning its fourth consecutive game against the Wildcats, and the Fighting Irish move to 8-6 all-time against VU at The Pavilion, winning on consecutive trips to suburban Philadelphia for the second time in the series (also Feb. 10, 1999 and Feb. 16, 2000) ... nearly half (13) of the 29 series games between Notre Dame and Villanova have been decided by eight points or fewer ... the Fighting Irish have held six of their last nine opponents to 52 points or fewer ... Notre Dame is 104-2 (.981) when it leads at halftime during the past four seasons (2009-10 to present) ... the Fighting Irish are 271-15 (.948) since joining the BIG EAST when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.