Nov. 18, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame used a tenacious defense and balanced offense to rout UMass in its home opener.
"I thought we did a lot of good things on the offensive side, but I thought we could have rebounded a little bit better," said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. "We've got a lot of things to work on. It's early in the year, we're still finding our way."
The Irish only led by four early on before using a 17-0 run to blow the game open. Notre Dame used its defense to take control, forcing 20 turnovers in the first half that led to 30 points.
"We've really been working hard at double-teaming, running at the ball, and trying to have our defense get their offense to feel really uncomfortable," McGraw said. "I was disappointed we didn't take more charges but overall I thought we had a good awareness today of where their shooters were."
Offensively the Irish had four players in double figures and had 26 assists.
"I think we're a good passing team. It's like last year's team," said Diggins, who had seven assists. "We have a lot of weapons. We have a lot of people who can score. It's just a matter of finding the open player. I think sometimes we overpass a little bit and try to think too much for each other. But that's something that we're learning. I like that we're sharing the ball."
UMass coach Sharon Dawley scheduled the game for her senior center, Jasmine Watson, a South Bend native. Watson and Diggins led South Bend Washington to the state title game their senior year.
Watson was one of four Minutewomen to lead the team in scoring with eight points. She led both teams with eight rebounds, but fouled out with 7:25 left in the game.
Dawley, noting she has three other players from Michigan and one from Ohio, said her team might have been caught up in the moment.
"We wanted to bring Jas home and I think everyone just got too caught up in the emotional side, where we're playing, who we're playing, how good they are," Dawley said. "Sometimes you can try too hard and look awful, and I think that's what happened. I think we played better in the second half because we just decided to play basketball."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is 28-8 (.778) all-time in home openers and has won 18 consecutive South Bend lidlifters, while improving to 22-4 (.846) in its annual Purcell Pavilion debut during the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) ... the Fighting Irish have won their last six home openers (beginning with the 2007-08 season) by an average of 40.5 points per game ... Notre Dame moves to 2-0 all-time against UMass, with the other win coming in the third-place game at the 1995 postseason National Women's Invitation Tournament (NWIT) - precursor to today's WNIT - in Amarillo, Texas ... the Fighting Irish are 14-6 (.700) all-time against teams from the state of Massachusetts, with a 9-1 mark against the Bay State at Purcell Pavilion ... Notre Dame rises to 86-24 (.782) all-time against the current Atlantic 10 Conference alignment, along with a 40-11 (.784) record at home ... Notre Dame also has won 21 consecutive games against current A-10 schools, a streak that dates back to Feb. 18, 1995 (84-68 at La Salle, when ND and La Salle were in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, now known as the Horizon League) ... McBride had a career-high five steals (previous best was four on two occasions, most recently on March 20, 2012, vs. California in the second round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion), and narrowly missed her career scoring high of 20 points (set on Dec. 30, 2010, in a win over Loyola Marymount at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle) ... freshman guards Hannah Huffman and Michaela Mabrey made their college debuts on Sunday, while sophomore forward Markisha Wright earned her first career start (the third different first-time starter for the Fighting Irish this year, following debuts by sophomore guard Madison Cable and freshman guard Jewell Loyd in the Nov. 9 season-opening win over No. 19/21 Ohio State at the Carrier Classic in Mount Pleasant, S.C.) ... Wright had a career-high four assists on Sunday, two more than her previous best that she set on three occasions, the last on Jan. 17, 2012, in a win over Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion ... the Fighting Irish are 249-19 (.929) in the past 12 seasons (2000-01 to present) when leading at halftime, including an 86-2 (.977) mark in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present) ... since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, Notre Dame is 260-15 (.945) when holding its opponents to fewer than 60 points ... in that same 18-year span, Notre Dame is 169-6 (.966) when it scores at least 80 points in a game, with a 46-2 (.958) record in the past four years ... Notre Dame has won 222-28 in its last 250 home games (.888) at Purcell Pavilion, including a 104-8 record in its last 112 non-conference home contests (.929) ... junior forward Ariel Braker sank the "Big Mac Basket" on Sunday, converting an old-fashioned three-point play with 2:37 remaining - it's Braker's third career "burger ball", tying her with Wright for the team lead among active players (and it's the 36th "Big Mac" game in the six-year history of the promotion that awards a coupon for a free Big Mac at South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Fighting Irish score 88 points in a home game) ... Notre Dame had a sellout crowd of 9,149 for Sunday's win over UMass, the first sellout for a home opener in school history and the 26th capacity crowd in the program's 36-year tenure, as well as the 20th sellout in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present).