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    No. 2 Irish Cruise Past Wake Forest, 86-61

    FIGHTING IRISH Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer blocks a shot in the first half of Thursday's 86-61 win at Wake Forest.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer blocks a shot in the first half of Thursday's 86-61 win at Wake Forest.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Feb. 20, 2014

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    WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Notre Dame didn't have one of its better shooting games against Wake Forest.

    However, the second-ranked Fighting Irish did enough right in other areas to stay unbeaten with an 86-61 victory over the Demon Deacons and remain atop the ACC standings.

    Jewell Loyd had 29 points and 10 rebounds and two other players finished in double figures as Notre Dame (26-0, 13-0) remained two games ahead of No. 7 Duke (24-3, 11-2) heading into Sunday's matchup.

    Kayla McBride added 19 points and Taya Reimer 10 for the Fighting Irish, who overcame their own poor shooting thanks to their inside play and defense. Notre Dame and top-ranked UConn are the only undefeated teams left in the country.

    Notre Dame shot just 39.4 percent (28 of 71), its second-worst game of the season. It was the first time the Irish have been under 40 percent since beating then-No. 10 Penn State on Dec. 4.

    The Irish forced Wake Forest (14-12, 5-8) into 22 turnovers, held the Demon Deacons to 35.7 percent shooting (20 of 56) and outrebounded them 49-39.

    "We just couldn't get any rhythm going offensively," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "(But) we did a nice job on the boards ... and we did force them into a few turnovers."

    The turnovers led to a 30-12 advantage for the Fighting Irish in points, and 20 offensive rebounds gave them an 18-11 scoring advantage in second-chance points.

    Notre Dame also made 27 of 31 from the free throw line, 15 of 17 coming in the second half as the Fighting Irish built on their 51-39 halftime lead.

    "Once we got into transition, we got a couple of easy buckets," McBride said. "We also got some fouls while finishing, but that helped us pull away."

    Wake Forest shot just 22 percent from the field (6 of 27) in the second half after hitting 48.3 percent (14 of 29) in the first half.

    That allowed the Fighting Irish to build on their 12-point halftime lead. They went ahead by 20 points for the first time, 70-50, on Loyd's two free throws with 7:39 left, and scored the game's final 10 points for the final margin.

    "(Notre Dame is) such a good team offensively, you can't give them a lot of turnovers," Demon Deacons coach Jen Hoover said. "The transition baskets show you that - they got 30 points off our turnovers."

    Dearica Hamby had 26 points and Jill Brunori added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Wake Forest, which also made just 5 of 16 3-pointers and went 16 of 29 from the free throw line.

    Yet, despite missing No. 2 scorer Chelsea Douglas (injured foot), the Demon Deacons managed to stick with the nation's third-ranked scoring team (87.5 points per game) early in the first half.

    Wake Forest fought back from a six-point deficit in the opening 2 minutes to tie the score, and were within 21-18 on Mykia Jones' 3-pointer with 12:17 remaining.

    However, Loyd scored seven points during a 16-3 run over a 4 1/2-minute span. Her layup with 9:22 left gave the Fighting Irish their first double-digit lead, 31-20, and Lindsay Allen's layup with 6:34 left put them ahead 37-21, their biggest lead of the half.

    Hamby, who had 15 first-half points, pulled the Demon Deacons within nine points, 48-39, on a short jumper with 1 minute remaining. But Michaela Mabrey's 3-pointer with seven seconds left pushed Notre Dame's lead back into double figures.

    -- ND --

    POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame continues its best-ever start (26-0) and extends the second-longest winning streak (26 games) in school history, the latter only surpassed by last year's 30-game success string ... the Fighting Irish earn their 49th consecutive regular season win, and their 33rd consecutive victory in conference play ... Notre Dame has won a school-record 25 consecutive road games, the fifth-longest streak in NCAA Division I history, and 34 consecutive regular season road contests (as well as 41 of its last 46 road games overall) ... the Fighting Irish have won 23 consecutive league road games ... Notre Dame has won 48 consecutive games against unranked opponents ... since 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 112-28 (.800) in the month of February, including an active 17-game winning streak ... Notre Dame improves to 2-0 all-time against Wake Forest, winning its first-ever game in Winston-Salem ... the Fighting Irish are 17-2 (.895) all-time against North Carolina schools (6-1 on the road) and have won their last seven games against teams from the Old North State ... Notre Dame is 8-1 (.889) all-time when playing in the state of North Carolina ... the Fighting Irish topped 80 points for the sixth consecutive game and 19th time this season -- they are 81-2 (.976) in the past five seasons when scoring 80 points ... Notre Dame's 51 first-half points marked the sixth time this season it has scored at least 50 points in the opening 20 minutes ... the Fighting Irish were held to their lowest field goal percentage since Dec. 4 at Penn State (season-low .370), the only other time this season Notre Dame has shot below 40 percent in a game ... the Fighting Irish also shot a season-low .188 from the three-point line, below their previous mark of .200 vs. Clemson on Jan. 5 ... conversely, Notre Dame made a season-high 27 free throws, exceeding their previous best of 23 (on 33 attempts) vs. DePaul on Nov. 26 ... the Fighting Irish held Wake Forest to 22 second-half points, the fewest by a Notre Dame opponent in one half since Virginia Tech's 19 points in the first half on Jan. 30 ... sophomore guard Jewell Loyd registered her third double-double of the season (and fourth of her career) ... Loyd also picked up her team-high ninth 20-point game of the season, and her second consecutive 25-point outing, the first by a Notre Dame player since March 2 and 4, 2013, when Skylar Diggins had 28 points at Providence, followed by 29 points against Connecticut ... Loyd's 10-of-12 free throws were career highs in both shots made and attempted ... Loyd scored in double figures for the 30th consecutive game, the second-longest streak in school history ... senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa moved into 17th place on the Notre Dame all-time scoring list with 1,379 points, passing Shari Matvey (1,373 from 1979-83) ... senior forward/tri-captain Ariel Braker tied her season high with four steals ... freshman forward Taya Reimer logged her 10th double-figure scoring game of the season, while also giving the Fighting Irish bench at least one double-digit scorer for the 20th game this year ... head coach Muffet McGraw earned her 740th career win, taking over sole possession of 10th place on the NCAA Division I all-time victories list (she had been tied with former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan) ... McGraw also coached the 998th game of her career on Thursday, having compiled a 740-258 (.741) in 32 seasons on the sidelines, the past 27 at Notre Dame where she owns a 652-217 (.750) record.

     

     

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