Feb. 9, 2013
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (AP) - With her team struggling to put away Seton Hall, Notre Dame's Ariel Braker stepped up.
Braker matched her career high with 15 points, Kayla McBride had 12 points and nine rebounds and Natalie Achonwa added 11 points and nine rebounds to help No. 2 Notre Dame beat Seton Hall 69-49 on Saturday for the Irish's 17th straight victory.
Braker keyed a second half spurt that turned an eight-point game into a rout.
"Coming out of halftime we needed to come out with defensive intensity," said Braker, who made five of her six shots and all five of her free throws. "When our defense is playing well it really sparks our offense and that's what happened. We got a couple of easy shots. Skylar (Diggins) found me on a couple easy baskets."
Braker has been struggling with knee issues all season since having offseason surgery on her left knee.
"She played really well and had a great practice, her knee felt good," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We looked for her. I was really pleased with her game."
Notre Dame (22-1, 10-0 BIG EAST) was a little out of sync early on. The Irish traveled to the area a night earlier than they had planned because of the incoming snowstorm.
"We got out here OK, but had to leave at midnight to do it," McGraw said. "We had been sitting around all day and we looked a little sluggish in practice. We gritted it out when we had to."
Even with the 20-point loss, it was a much better effort for Seton Hall then the last few meetings with the Irish. Last season the Pirates (8-15, 3-7) trailed 49-16 at the half and never got back in the game, losing 74-36.
This time, hot shooting kept them in it for 20 minutes. The Irish held a 35-28 lead at the half after scoring 17 of the first 21 points of the game. Seton Hall hit five 3s in the first half to keep it close.
Notre Dame scored four quick points to start the second half to boost its lead back to double figures, but Seton Hall closed to 41-33 with five straight points by Morris.
That's as close as they'd get as Notre Dame scored 12 of the next 14 points to put the game away, including six by Braker.
"We were encouraged at the half," said Brittany Morris, who scored 16 points to lead Seton Hall. "We had a little breakdown in the second half and a team like that you can't break down when they go on a run."
The Irish return home to face No. 11 Louisville on Monday night.
The win was the 117th for the senior class of Kaila Turner and Diggins matching them with the group that graduated last year for the most in school history. Turner was wearing a sling on her left shoulder and didn't play. She injured the elbow against Villanova.
"She tore a tendon and we hope to get her back for the Big East tournament," McGraw said.
Despite the winter storm that hit the area, there were 2,600 fans at the game - Seton Hall's biggest crowd of the season. It was the Play4Kay game in honor of former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow.
"She was one of the most respected coaches in the game and a mentor. She transcended all the groups and cliques in our game," Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan said. "There's not a coach in our country who didn't have a high regard for her."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame extends its current winning streak to 17 games, the fourth-longest run in school history ... the Fighting Irish pick up their 14th consecutive BIG EAST Conference regular-season victory, the second-longest conference winning streak since the program joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96 (longest since an 18-game run from Feb. 17, 1999-Feb. 22, 2000) ... Notre Dame earns its school-record 19th consecutive regular-season road win (and 24th in the last 29 road games overall) ... the Fighting Irish collect their 13th consecutive BIG EAST regular-season road win, the second-longest success string on the road in any league in program history (and longest since a school-record 15-game conference road winning streak from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 when Notre Dame played in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, now known as the Horizon League) ... at 22-1, the Fighting Irish continue to match the second-best start through 23 games in school history, something they've done three times in the past four seasons (also 2009-10 and 2011-12), and topped only by the 2000-01 Notre Dame squad that opened 23-0 en route to the program's first national championship ... the Fighting Irish are 10-0 in BIG EAST play for the second consecutive season and the fifth time since joining the conference 18 years ago ... Notre Dame's two-player senior class of guards/co-captains Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner led the Fighting Irish to the 117th win of their careers (now 117-19, .860), tying the Class of 2012 for the most victories by one senior class in Notre Dame women's basketball history ... Diggins made her school-record 130th career start on Saturday, surpassing Alicia Ratay's previous school standard of 129 career starts from 1999-2003 ... the Fighting Irish now are 102-28 (.785) in the month of February since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, with a 150-43 (.777) record in the 26-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) ... Notre Dame had at least four players score in double figures for the 15th time this season (15-0 record), improving to 67-4 (.944) in such games during the past four years (2009-10 to present), including an active 37-game winning streak ... the Fighting Irish have held seven of their last nine opponents to 52 points or fewer -- since entering the BIG EAST 18 seasons ago, Notre Dame is 272-15 (.948) when it holds its opponent to fewer than 60 points, including 14 times this season ... the Fighting Irish are 21-0 this year when leading at halftime, as well as 105-2 (.981) in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present) and 268-19 (.934) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign ... Notre Dame moves to 21-4 all-time against Seton Hall, including an 11-2 record at Walsh Gymnasium, where the Fighting Irish and Pirates were playing for the fourth time in five seasons ... Notre Dame has held Seton Hall to 61 points or fewer in 21 of the past 22 series matchups, going 20-1 in those contests ... junior forward Ariel Braker tied her career high with 15 points, having first hit the mark on Dec. 8 in a win over Utah State at Purcell Pavilion ... it was Braker's seventh double-figure scoring day of the season, after she had two in her first two seasons combined ... junior forward Natalie Achonwa tied her career high with three blocked shots, something she had done four times previously (last at Central Michigan on Nov. 29) ... Saturday's game was officially a sellout, marking the 12th time this season Notre Dame has played in front of a capacity crowd, and the third time away from home (also on Nov. 9 vs. No. 19/21 Ohio State in the Carrier Classic aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C.; and on Jan. 5 at No. 1 Connecticut).