Nov. 20, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Natalie Achonwa scored a career-high 22 points to lead No. 5 Notre Dame to a 93-36 rout over Mercer on Tuesday night.
Freshman Jewell Loyd added 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting for the Fighting Irish (3-0), who jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back, pushing it to 26-7 midway through the first half before taking a 48-12 lead at the break.
"I thought we played really well at both ends of the floor," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "Natalie Achonwa, that's a remarkable line. That's amazing. Twenty-two points, 10 rebounds, no turnovers in just 18 minutes."
The Bears resorted to fouling Achonwa and Ariel Braker in the post to try and stop the easy baskets, but the pair combined to hit 10 of 13 at the free throw line. Notre Dame outrebounded Mercer 52-27 and outscored the Bears 60-12 in the paint. Braker had 12 points and five rebounds.
Achonwa, who posted her third career double-double, was quick to credit her teammates.
"I think our guys did a great job of finding us," Achonwa said. "We were trying to take advantage of the height differences and I think I just tried to hustle and get up the court, and the guards did a great job of seeing the floor and tossing it up in the air."
Notre Dame's aggressive defense forced 20 turnovers and the Irish shot nearly 54 percent (37 for 69).
Tabitha Bradshaw scored 10 points to lead Mercer (3-1), which was limited to perimeter shot attempts and hit only 26 percent (15 of 58) from the field.
Mercer coach Susie Gardner said she accepted Notre Dame's offer to start a home-and-home series last season for the benefit of former Irish player and Atlanta native Fraderica Miller, who could call the game somewhat of a homecoming with Mercer located in Macon, Ga. The Irish won that game 128-42, setting or tying eight school scoring records.
"I've learned my lesson," Gardner said. "Our program is just not ready for this, at this level."
She said she doesn't think such lopsided affairs benefit either team or help them prepare for their conference schedules.
"We're not like anyone in their league and they're not like anyone in our league," Gardner said. "It's just a game on the schedule."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame posts its largest margin of victory (57 points) since Jan. 17, 2012, when it defeated Pittsburgh, 120-44 at Purcell Pavilion ... Mercer's 36 points were the fewest allowed by the Fighting Irish in a home game since Dec. 28, 2011 (a 92-26 win over Longwood) ... this marks the 14th time in the past four years (2009-10 to present) Notre Dame has held its opponent to fewer than 40 points in a game, and the 40th time in that same span it has held the opposition to fewer than 50 points ... at the same time, this is Notre Dame's 36th win by at least 30 points and its 23rd 90-point game in the past four seasons, covering a stretch of 116 games ... the Fighting Irish shot 69 percent (20-of-29) from the field in the second half, their best shooting percentage in a single half since Feb. 5, 2012, when they connected at a .719 clip (23-of-32) in the first half of a 90-70 win over No. RV/23 DePaul at Purcell Pavilion ... Notre Dame's 52 rebounds and +25 rebound margin are its best since Jan. 31, 2012, when the Fighting Irish held a 52-24 edge on the glass in a 71-41 win at No. 13/14 Rutgers ... since the start of the 2008-09 season, the Fighting Irish are 29-9 (.763) in games played with on a one-day break or less (Notre Dame defeated Massachusetts, 94-50 on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion) ... the Fighting Irish are 2-0 all-time against Mercer, with those wins also accounting for the only games Notre Dame has played against the Atlantic Sun Conference ... Achonwa registered her second double-double of the season and third of her career, while posting the first 20-point, 10-rebound game for a Notre Dame player since March 27, 2012, when Skylar Diggins had a triple-double (22 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) in an 80-49 win over No. 5 Maryland in the NCAA Raleigh Regional final at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. ... Achonwa scored a career-high 22 points, two more than her previous best that she set on Dec. 4, 2011, in a 76-48 win at Creighton, while her 8-for-11 shooting performance matches her career best in both categories (set numerous times before) ... Loyd scored a season-high 19 points and added a season-best five assists en route to her first career "5-5-5" game (at least "5" in three of the five major statistical categories) ... Diggins logged the 30th "5-5-5" game of her career, and moved into sole possession of fifth place on Notre Dame's all-time steals list wirh 276, passing recently-graduated former teammate Brittany Mallory (272 from 2007-12) ... Braker and Turner both earned their first career starts on Tuesday, meaning eight of the 11 players on this year's Fighting Irish roster have started at least once in the first three games ... Braker made the most of her debut in the lineup, collecting career highs for points (12; previous was 10 on two occasions, most recently on Jan. 21, 2012, vs. Villanova), assists (3; previous was two on four occasions, the last at Mercer on Dec. 30, 2011), field goals made and attempted (4-of-6; tied marks set numerous times before) ... Wright had 11 points for her fifth career double-digit scoring night and first since the Jan. 17, 2012, win over Pittsburgh (also 11 points) ... Achonwa (22 points in 18 minutes) and Loyd (19 points in 19 minutes) are the first "point-a-minute" scorers for Notre Dame since the Feb. 5, 2012, win over No. RV/23 DePaul, when Achonwa had 16 points in 14 minutes ... the Jan. 17, 2012 Pittsburgh game was the last time two Fighting Irish players pulled off that feat on the same night (Devereaux Peters 20 points in 18 minutes; Achonwa 19 points in 17 minutes) ... Notre Dame continues to extend some amazing long-term trends with Tuesday's win -- leading at halftime (250-19 since 2000-01; 87-2 since 2009-10), allowing less than 60 points in a game (261-15 since joining BIG EAST in 1995-96) and scoring 80 points in a game (170-6 since 1995-96; 47-2 since 2009-10) ... Notre Dame stretches its all-time Purcell Pavilion record to 373-89 (.807), including a 223-28 (.888) record in the past 18 seasons and 105-8 (.929) mark in its last 113 non-conference home games ... for the third time in as many Purcell Pavilion outings this year (counting the Nov. 1 exhibition vs. Edinboro), and the 37th time since the promotion started six years ago, Notre Dame topped the 88-point mark, meaning all fans in attendance received a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants -- Turner canned the "burger ball" on a three-pointer with 6:17 remaining, marking the third time in her career she has made the Big Mac Basket ... Notre Dame welcomed a crowd of 8,290 fans for Tuesday's game, the 21st consecutive regular-season home game drawing 8,000 fans or more, and the 178th time in the past 180 Purcell Pavilion games the Fighting Irish have had at least 5,000 fans in attendance.