Feb. 11, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Second-ranked Notre Dame got its inside game going in the second half and overwhelmed No. 10 Louisville.
The Fighting Irish outrebounded the Cardinals 26-8 in the second half and outscored them 26-10 in the paint in the final 20 minutes en route to a 93-64 victory Monday night, the 18th straight win for Notre Dame. Natalie Achonwa led the Irish with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
"We just really got the transition game going," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We had a great rebounding effort in the second half. Defensively tightened up quite a bit. Shot the ball well. We really did everything we absolutely wanted to do."
Louisville managed to cut Notre Dame's lead to seven points early in the second half, but the Irish quickly responded with a 10-0 run and the Cardinals didn't threaten again. Playing on the same court where the two schools' men's teams played a five overtime game two nights earlier, the women's game never came close to matching that intensity as the Irish dominated most of the way.
Notre Dame (23-1, 11-0 Big East) improved to 7-1 against ranked opponents this season, its only loss coming against No. 1 Baylor in December. It also was the 118th victory for the senior class, the most in school history. McGraw was asked if that's what she expected when she recruited Skylar Diggins, who finished with 21 points and seven assists.
"I didn't think we'd lose any," McGraw joked. "I'm a little disappointed."
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for Louisville (20-5, 8-3), its second longest Big East winning streak since joining the league in 2005-06.
Bria Smith, who led the Cardinals with 18 points, blamed Louisville's defensive play.
""We were just unfocused on defense. They went on their runs and we didn't know exactly what we were doing," she said. "I mean we have a play to go by. We just didn't execute well."
Achonwa said the Irish were more physical and aggressive in the second half, noting that the Irish had 26 free throw attempts to seven for the Cardinals. Louisville coach Jeff Walz noticed that as well.
"I thought we attacked and went hard to the basket," he said. "Somehow they got to the line 26 times. Stuff happens, I guess."
Walz was visibly unhappy about the officiating at times, complaining when a foul against Achonwa was overturned and changed into a traveling call and again when Jude Schimmel was called for a foul with 0.1 seconds left in the first half when Diggins attempted a 25-foot running shot as she tried to beat the buzzer. "Danielle, welcome to Notre Dame," a frustrated Walz yelled toward Big East associate commissioner Danielle Donehew at the end of the court.
Although the game wasn't as exciting as the men's game, the crowd of 8,368 still got into the game, letting out a loud cheer when Loyd scored on a fastbreak layup to give the Irish an 85-60 lead and again when Madison Cable hit a 3-pointer to give the Irish a 90-62 advantage.
The win marked just the fourth time in 10 tries the home team has won in the series.
"That's a great win for us, to come in and play that well against a really good team," McGraw said.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 7-1 against ranked opponents this season (22-4 in the past two years), including a 3-1 record this season against teams ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll (Louisville rose to No. 10 earlier on Monday) ... the 29-point margin of victory was the largest for the Fighting Irish against a ranked opponent since March 27, 2012, when they defeated No. 5 Maryland, 80-49 in the NCAA Raleigh Regional final at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. ... the 93 points were the most Notre Dame has scored against an AP top-10 opponent since Dec. 4, 1999, when it defeated No. 9/12 North Carolina, 99-86 at the Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational in Richmond, Va. ... the 93 points also were the most the Fighting Irish have scored against any ranked opponent since Feb. 25, 2004, when it defeated No. 21/19 Miami (Fla.), 93-58 at Purcell Pavilion ... Notre Dame has matched the best 24-game record in school history, joining the 2000-01 Fighting Irish national championship team (that opened with a school-record 23 consecutive wins before losing game No. 24 at Rutgers, 54-53 on Feb. 17, 2001) and last year's squad (that started 24-1 before losing game No. 26 at home to West Virginia, 65-63 on Feb. 12, 2012) ... Notre Dame's 18-game winning streak is fourth-longest in school history, and the second time in as many seasons the Fighting Irish have reeled off 18 consecutive victories (they had a 21-game run last year) ... Notre Dame is 11-0 in BIG EAST Conference play for the fifth time in school history, and the second consecutive season (last year's team lost its 12th conference game, the aforementioned setback to West Virginia) ... the Fighting Irish register their 15th consecutive BIG EAST win, the second-longest since joining the conference in 1995-96 (record is 18 consecutive BIG EAST wins from Feb. 17, 1999-Feb. 22, 2000) ... with Monday's win, the Notre Dame senior class of guards/co-captains Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner have led the Fighting Irish to the most victories (118) of any senior class in the program's 36-year history, one more than the Class of 2012 -- this year's class now has amassed a 118-19 (.861) record in its four-year career, including a 26-12 (.684) record against ranked opponents (13-10 against the AP Top 10) ... Notre Dame moves to 9-4 all-time against Louisville, including an 8-2 record since the Cardinals joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06 (6-2 in the regular season) ... the Fighting Irish have won their last six games against Louisville and are 3-2 against the Cardinals at Purcell Pavilion, with this marking just the fourth time in 10 on-campus series games that the home team has won ... Monday's 93 points were the most scored by either team in the 13-game series, while the 29-point margin was the largest in the 10 regular-season meetings, and second-largest overall behind an 89-52 Fighting Irish victory on March 6, 2010, in a BIG EAST Championship second-round game at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. ...the Fighting Irish continue their remarkable success in the month of February, improving to 103-28 (.786) in February games since joining the BIG EAST, including a 58-6 (.906) record at home -- in the McGraw era (1987-88 to present), Notre Dame is 151-43 (.778) in February with a 80-12 (.870) home record ... the Fighting Irish had five players in double figures for the seventh time this season (7-0 record) and since the start of the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 68-4 (.944) when at least four players score in double figures, including an active 38-game winning streak ... the Fighting Irish topped the 80-point mark for the ninth time this season and are 54-2 (.964) when doing so during the past four seasons (177-6 in their 18-year BIG EAST Conference membership) ... Notre Dame also is 106-2 (.981) since 2009-10 when it leads at halftime (22-0 this season) ... the Fighting Irish logged their best field goal percentage in conference play this season (.567) and best in any game since a season-high .618 mark Dec. 31 against Saint Francis (Pa.) ... Louisville's 23 rebounds were one shy of the opponent season-low, registered by St. John's on Jan. 20 ... junior forward Natalie Achonwa posted her BIG EAST-leading 13th double-double of the season (sixth against a ranked opponent; league-leading sixth in BIG EAST play), tying for fourth on the Notre Dame single-season list -- it's the most double-doubles for a Fighting Irish player in one season since 2003-04, when Jacqueline Batteast also collected 13 ... Diggins chalked up her team-high sixth 20-point game of the season and the 39th of her career, good for third on the Notre Dame all-time list ... Diggins also topped the 2,100-point mark for her career (now 2,108), putting her within range of second place in school history, a spot currently held by Katryna Gaither (2,126 points from 1993-97) ... Diggins moved into third place on Notre Dame's career assist chart with 657 handouts, passing Mollie Peirick (651 from 1994-98) ... freshman guard Jewell Loyd registered her third "5-5-5" game of the season, sparked by a career high-tying five assists (something she also did on Nov. 20 against Mercer and Nov. 23 at No. 19/22 UCLA on the way to her first two "5-5-5" outings) ... junior forward Ariel Braker scored in double figures for the second consecutive game and eighth time this season -- in the past two games, she has made 10-of-11 shots from the floor after going 5-for-6 while tying her career high with 15 points last Saturday at Seton Hall) ... sophomore guard Madison Cable punctuated the win by hitting the "Big Mac Basket", a three-pointer from the left corner with 3:18 left, the seventh time this season Notre Dame has topped 88 points and earned the fans in attendance a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants -- it was Cable's second "Big Mac Basket" of the year, as she converted a free throw to put the Fighting Irish over the mark in the Dec. 31 win over Saint Francis (Pa.) ... throughout Monday night's game, Notre Dame celebrated head coach Muffet McGraw's recent historic 700th win, including video tributes from former Fighting Irish assistant coaches (under McGraw) and current head coaches Bill Fennelly (Iowa State), Kevin McGuff (Washington), Jonathan Tsipis (George Washington; joined by GW assistants and former ND players Megan Duffy and Erica Williamson) and Coquese Washington (Penn State) -- after the game, McGraw was presented with a framed collage recognizing her 700th victory, which made her the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to reach that milestone.