Feb. 7, 2012
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - After the final horn sounded in the Carrier Dome and Notre Dame had its 21st straight victory, Irish coach Muffet McGraw grimaced when she looked at the stat sheet.
Sure, Devereaux Peters had 21 points and Kayla McBride added 19, season-highs for both players, in No. 2 Notre Dame's 74-55 win over Syracuse on Tuesday night, but McGraw wasn't happy with all the missed long-range shots and the two shot-clock violations.
"I didn't want to shoot so many 3s, and we're 2 for 16. We were really, really poor," McGraw said. "We shot the ball so poorly today. We made some bad decisions, shot it too quickly at times and then the shot clock ran out. We haven't done that all year long. To have that many shot-clock violations in one game, it was pitiful. We just didn't play a smart game today at all."
Still, Notre Dame (24-1, 11-0 BIG EAST) improved its road record to 12-1 against Syracuse (15-10, 4-7), which lost at home by 41 points to No. 3 Connecticut two weeks ago.
Skylar Diggins, the Irish's leading scorer, finished with 11 points, all in the second half, and they were key. She scored five straight points to get the Irish going after the Orange had pulled within 49-39 on a 3-pointer by Rachel Coffey and two free throws by Shakeya Leary midway through the half.
Iasia Hemingway had 15 points to lead the Orange, but 11 came from the free throw line as she finished 2 of 13 from the field. Kayla Alexander added 11 points for Syracuse.
"That's not normal," said the 5-foot-11 Hemingway, who thrives around the basket and entered the game shooting 48.5 percent. "I give a lot of credit to Notre Dame. They made sure they sagged on me going to the rim. They did a great job making sure I didn't get to the basket."
After a slow start - both teams combined to shoot 5 of 22 in the first 5 minutes - the Irish settled down and pulled away with a 16-4 run despite little help from Diggins. McBride more than made up for that with six points in the spurt, her jumper from the right wing giving Notre Dame a 20-8 lead midway through the period.
"I thought Kayla McBride got us out of the gate really well," McGraw said. "She shot the ball well, looked for opportunities against their zone, and really shot it well. I was pleased."
The lead ballooned to 30-12 with 4:39 left on consecutive layups by McBride and Peters. The Orange were held scoreless for nearly 5 minutes until Leary's follow with 3:26 left and trailed 38-19 at halftime. Syracuse shot 18.8 percent (6 of 32) in the half, repeatedly misfiring from in close, and finished the game 18 of 61 (29.5 percent).
"We missed a lot of easy baskets," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. "You're not going to be in a game in the first half shooting 18 percent against the No. 2 team in the country. To play an even second half, it's one of those things - if you put a full game together against good teams, you have a chance to win."
Syracuse entered the game tied for second nationally with top-ranked Baylor in rebounds per game at 47.7, but the Irish dominated the glass 33-18 in the opening half, outscoring the Orange 26-6 in the paint. Since struggling early in the season on the boards, Notre Dame is back on track. In their previous 18 games, the Irish averaged 43.7 rebounds and had an average rebounding margin of plus-14.8 per game. They finished this one with a 47-37 edge.
After Mallory hit a 3-pointer to open the second half, the Orange ran off 11 straight points, two baskets coming on follows by Hemingway and Alexander as Syracuse began to assert itself on the glass. A pullup jumper in the lane by Phylesha Bullard and a three-point play by Alexander moved the Orange within 41-30 with 15:20 left.
Diggins' layup, her first points of the game, stopped the surge and Mallory's layup gave the Irish a 45-30 lead with 13:52 to go.
The Irish put the game out of reach with a 13-4 run keyed by Diggins, who scored five straight points, the last on a rebound of her missed free throw. Consecutive three-point plays by McBride and Peters gave Notre Dame a 62-43 lead with 7:30 left.
Notre Dame finished with a 48-24 edge in points in the paint and 20-2 on the fast break.
Against UConn, Syracuse played a solid first half, trailing by only seven, and got blown out in the second. It was the opposite against Notre Dame as the Orange matched the Irish with 36 points in the second half.
"We have to put it together as a team, put both halves together, play as a unit," said Carmen Tyson-Thomas, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds for the Orange. "When we get outrebounded, it's never a good end result."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame extends its current winning streak to 21 games, now standing alone as the second-longest run in school history behind only a 23-game winning streak to open the 2000-01 season ... the Fighting Irish also match that 2000-01 club for the best record after 25 games in school history (24-1) ... Notre Dame earns its ninth consecutive road win, its longest success string on opponents' home courts since a 10-game road winning streak from Nov. 17, 2000-Feb. 14, 2001 ... the Fighting Irish have won 11 consecutive BIG EAST Conference games, their longest regular-season league winning streak since a 12-0 start to begin the 2000-01 BIG EAST slate ... Notre Dame improves to 7-0 this season when playing the second of two games in three days (the Fighting Irish won 90-70 over No. RV/23 DePaul on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion) ... Notre Dame is 52-5 (.912) all-time against New York schools, including a 20-4 (.833) record on the road ... the Fighting Irish are 95-27 (.779) in the month of February since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, and 143-42 (.773) in February games during the 25-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw ... Notre Dame moves to 25-2 all-time against Syracuse (21-0 in BIG EAST regular-season play) and picks up its 12th consecutive win over the Orange, matching the longest winning streak in the series (also 1990-2002) ... the Fighting Irish are 12-1 all-time against Syracuse on the road, having won the past 12 visits to central New York (including all four at the Carrier Dome) ... Syracuse becomes the third opponent against which Notre Dame has at least 25 series wins, joining Marquette (31) and Georgetown (25) ... Tuesday's margin of victory was the largest for the Fighting Irish at Syracuse since Jan. 21, 2004, when Notre Dame defeated the Orange, 64-35 at old Manley Field House (this is the largest winning margin for the Fighting Irish in four visits to the Carrier Dome) ... Notre Dame has scored at least 70 points in 22 of the 27 series games against Syracuse, including eight of the past nine ... the Fighting Irish held their opponent to fewer than 60 points for the 20th time this season ... Notre Dame has won its last nine games by at least 15 points with only opponent managing to score more than 60 points in that span (DePaul this past Sunday) ... the Fighting Irish finished with a +10 rebounding margin against the top rebounding squad in the BIG EAST and one of the top-10 board crews in the country (Syracuse entered with a league-leading 47.7 rpg. -- second-best in the nation -- and a +11.7 rebounding margin that was seventh-best in the nation according to Monday's NCAA statistics report) ... Notre Dame has finished either ahead or even in the rebounding column in its last 19 games (ahead in 18, tied 43-43 against No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 7) ... this marked the 14th time this season the Fighting Irish have earned a double-digit advantage on the boards, and 12th in the past 19 games ... Notre Dame forced at least 20 opponent turnovers for the 17th time this season, while collecting double-digit steals for the 19th time (Tuesday's 16 thefts were the second-most for the Fighting Irish in BIG EAST play this year, and most in any game since Dec. 30 when they had 19 steals at Mercer) ... Syracuse's 11-0 run in the second half was the longest string of consecutive points against Notre Dame this season, topping Kentucky's 9-0 run on Dec. 18 ... fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters posted her fourth double-double and fourth 15-rebound game in the past five outings with a season-high 21 points and 16 rebounds... Peters is the fifth Fighting Irish player ever to register four 15-rebound games in one season, and the first since Katryna Gaither also had four in 1996-97 ... it also was the third 15-point/15-rebound game of the year for Peters, the most by a Notre Dame player in a single season since 1996-97, when Katryna Gaither tied the school record with four 15-point/15-rebound games (a figure first set by Jane Politiski in 1977-78 and matched by Shari Matvey in 1979-80, both during Notre Dame's AIAW Division III era; Letitia Bowen also had three 15/15 games in 1992-93) ... Peters jumped two spots on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring list with 1,168 points, passing both her former teammate Becca Bruszewski (1,148 points from 2007-11) and Courtney LaVere (1,150 points from 2002-06) ... sophomore guard Kayla McBride tied her season high with 19 points, having first hit that mark on Dec. 7 against Marquette at Purcell Pavilion ... sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa tied her season best with eight rebounds, a figure she also posted on Dec. 20 against UCF at Purcell Pavilion ... junior guard Skylar Diggins moved into a tie for seventh place in Notre Dame history with 226 career steals, matching the total of Krissi Davis from 1987-91 ... fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory set a school record by playing in her 137th career game, topping the old Fighting Irish standard of 136 games by Bruszewski from 2007-11 ... Mallory also logged her 250th career steal (fifth in school history) and took over sole possession of sixth place on the Notre Dame charts with her 140th career three-point field goal ... senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel appeared in the 130th game of her career, tying for seventh place in school history in that category with Julie Henderson (1996-2000), Alicia Ratay (1999-2003) and former teammate Ashley Barlow (2006-10) ... McGraw earned her 580th victory since coming to Notre Dame in 1987-88 (580-212, .732 in 25 seasons), moving her into sole possession of second place on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list ahead of the late former men's tennis/wrestling head coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 combined record from 1957-87).