Nov. 26, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- As Natalie Achonwa put it, Tuesday was a good knee day.
In her second game back after knee surgery in late October, Achonwa had 17 points and eight rebounds to help No. 5 Notre Dame beat No. 25 DePaul 92-76 for its second victory over a ranked opponent this season.
After scoring only four points in 14 minutes against Penn on Saturday, Achonwa felt much more comfortable this time out.
"I think I was overthinking it, I wanted to be back so bad," Achonwa said. "I just let it flow a little bit more today.
"Today was just a good knee day, as we call them."
For Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, the difference from Achonwa's first game of the season to her second was clear.
"It was kind of like night and day, really," McGraw said. "I feel like she's probably 80, 85 percent back."
DePaul (3-1) was led by 18 points from reserve Megan Rogowski in the Blue Demons' first game in eight days.
Notre Dame outrebounded DePaul 58-33 and held the Blue Demons to 30 percent shooting in a dominant second half.
DePaul opened the second half with turnovers on its first two possessions, and Notre Dame capitalized with seven straight points to push a four-point halftime lead up to 11 in the first 1:11.
The Irish run grew to 19-5 at the 15:22 mark, with Achonwa scoring seven of those points as Notre Dame's lead got to 18.
"I think we started to actually guard them," McBride said. "We were able to get out in transition and get some easy buckets. From then on, we just guarded them."
While McGraw wasn't happy with her team's overall defensive effort, she did like the adjustment the Irish made on Rogowski, who scored only three points in the second half.
"She played really well," McGraw said. "Held her to three in the second half; I thought that was really important. We looked like we just wanted to outscore them, which is not what I want our philosophy to be."
Foul trouble began to hamper DePaul's comeback effort as two starters, Brittany Hrynko and Brandi Harvey-Carr, each had to sit with four fouls and still nearly 14 minutes to play.
Jasmine Penny, the Blue Demons' leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, fouled out with 4:49 left and finished with just four points.
"We're still a work in progress," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "We still have an inside game to develop."
Madison Cable's 3-pointer with 4:07 to play pushed Notre Dame's lead to 21.
Three straight pull-up jumpers in the lane gave the Irish the largest lead either team had in the first half, six points, with nine minutes left before halftime.
Notre Dame shot 50 percent (19-of-38) from the field and outrebounded DePaul 30-17 in the first half, but 11 Irish turnovers and a 5-of-10 showing at the free throw line helped the Blue Demons stay close.
They trailed 45-41 at the break, but the offense unraveled to begin the second half.
"There was too many panic possessions," Bruno said. "You can't take shots that have no chance to go in the basket."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is 2-0 against ranked opponents this season (two of the ACC's three wins against the Top 25 through the first two-plus weeks of the campaign) ... in the past three seasons, the Fighting Irish are 29-5 (.853) against ranked opponents, including a 10-1 mark at home ... Notre Dame claimed its 28th consecutive regular season win and 15th in a row at home ... the Fighting Irish now are 65-5 at home since Purcell Pavilion was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, and have won 41 of their last 43 home contests ... Notre Dame is 112-9 (.926) at home in non-conference games since 1994-95 ... the Fighting Irish rise to 81-14 (.853) in November since 1995-96, having also won 18 of their last 19 November contests ... Tuesday's meeting with DePaul was the 39th all-time in a series that dates back to the 1978-79 season; it's the second-longest series in Notre Dame women's basketball history (Connecticut - 41 games) ... the Fighting Irish have won a series-best five consecutive games (DePaul won five in a row from 1988-90) and nine of their last 10 against DePaul, taking a 20-19 series lead against the Blue Demons (the first time Notre Dame has led the all-time series with DePaul since Feb. 21, 1987, when it went up 6-5 after a 53-44 win over the Blue Demons in Chicago -- three months before Muffet McGraw took the reins as Notre Dame's head coach) ... in 15 of the last 20 series games between the Fighting Irish and Blue Demons, the winning team has scored at least 75 points ... Notre Dame's 92 points were the most it has scored in the 39-game series with DePaul, and second-most by either team in the rivalry (the Blue Demons won 96-87 on Jan. 16, 1995, in Chicago) ... the combined 168 points also were the second-most in a Notre Dame-DePaul game behind that Blue Demon win in 1995, which yielded 183 total points ... the Fighting Irish improve to 205-54 (.792) all-time against current BIG EAST Conference members and have won 18 in a row against that league's new alignment since a 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul on Feb. 28, 2011 ... Notre Dame is 103-16 (.866) against the BIG EAST at home, now sporting a 22-game winning streak against the present conference membership since an 81-80 loss to No. NR/25 DePaul on Jan. 22, 2008, at Purcell Pavilion ... the Irish jump to 283-19 (.937) since 2000-01 when leading at half, including 120-2 (.984) in the past five seasons ... since 1995-96, Notre Dame is 189-6 (.969) when it scores at least 80 points, including a 66-2 (.971) record in the past five years ... the Fighting Irish grabbed 50-plus rebounds (58) for the third time this season out of five games (also had 49 vs. Valparaiso) ... the season-high 58 rebounds were the most for Notre Dame since Dec. 28, 2011, when it collected 58 boards in a 92-26 win over Longwood at Purcell Pavilion ... Notre Dame made a season-high 23 free throws on a season-high 33 attempts ... freshman forward Taya Reimer logged her second double-double five games into her rookie season with 15 points and a season-high 14 rebounds, as well as season bests with 11 made free throws on 14 attempts ... Reimer's 11 made free throws made were the most by a Notre Dame player since current senior forward Natalie Achonwa knocked down 12 foul shots against No. 22 Texas A&M on Dec. 21, 2012, in an 83-74 World Vision Classic championship game win in Las Vegas ... junior guard Madison Cable tied her career high in rebounds (7) for the fifth time, and first since Feb. 17, 2013, when she reached that total at Marquette ... Cable's free throw with 3:16 left in the second half proved to be the "Big Mac Basket", as Notre Dame eclipsed 88 points to reward the 8,518 fans in attendance with a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants ... it was Cable's third career "Big Mac Basket", having done so last year in wins over Saint Francis (Pa.) and Louisville.