Dec. 4, 2011
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Natalie Achonwa scored a career-high 20 points to lead three Notre Dame players in double figures in the third-ranked Irish's 76-48 victory over Creighton on Sunday.
"We have such great perimeter players that it opens up the middle, opens up the high post," Achonwa said. "With players like Natalie and Skylar and even Dev being such a presence, they have to guard them. So as soon as I touch the ball, it's almost like a golden light telling me to go to the basket. It's really easy."
The Irish led by 30 points at halftime, allowing Novosel and star guard Skylar Diggins to spend most of the second half resting on the bench.
Ally Jensen made 3 of 4 3-pointers and finished with 12 points to lead Creighton (4-3).
Notre Dame got out to leads of 12-0, 30-3 and 41-11 at halftime. The 11 points were the fewest allowed by the Irish in a half since Southeast Missouri State had six last January.
The Irish forced turnovers on seven of Creighton's first nine possessions, and the Bluejays didn't make a field goal until Sarah Nelson's left-handed bank-in with 11:36 left in the half.
It was the kind of start Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw wanted to see after a rather lethargic performance in a 31-point win over Penn on Friday.
"We talked about energy. We had a lot of good positive energy today," McGraw said. "We were into the game more. I think we were really flat the other night and we needed to make up for it."
Notre Dame outworked and outmuscled the Bluejays inside and shot 55 percent.
Achonwa had scored a total of 15 points in her first four games back and made just 7 of 19 shots. But she found her touch against the Bluejays, making 8 of 11 shots.
Achonwa's return also takes pressure off Notre Dame's 3-point shooters. The Irish came in shooting 28.9 percent from long range and made only 1 of 7 against Creighton.
"It gives us a huge lift," McGraw said. "We've struggled from the 3-point line, so it was good to look inside and score some points without making any 3s."
Achonwa, who averaged 6.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in 39 games off the bench as a freshman, said she can build off her performance Sunday.
"I think I'm just trying to find my rhythm again," she said.
Novosel said she and her teammates expected Achonwa to be a valuable player for the Irish this season.
"She's come in full throttle," Novosel said. "She's very versatile, very hard to guard - a great attribute for us."
Peters had nine rebounds to go with her 10 points, and the Irish held a 32-28 advantage on the boards.
Creighton shot just 15 percent (3 of 20) in the first half but improved after halftime and finished at 37.2 percent.
Notre Dame is outscoring the opposition by an average of 27 points a game.
It was the second year in a row the teams met. The Irish won 91-54 at home last season.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame extends its current winning streak to a season-long four games, with three of those victories coming by 22 points or more ... the Fighting Irish set or tied nine team and individual opponent records at Creighton's D.J. Sokol Arena during Sunday's win, including: largest margin of victory (previous was 82-67 Missouri State win on Jan. 9, 2010), fewest points allowed in a half (Northern Iowa had allowed only 17 CU points in the first half on Jan. 24, 2010), lowest field goal percentage allowed in a half when CU shot .150 in the first 20 minutes (the Bluejays shot .171 in the first half vs. Illinois State on March 4, 2010), most turnovers forced (Oklahoma forced 22 CU turnovers on Dec. 20, 2009), highest field goal percentage (Missouri State shot .545 against the Bluejays on Jan. 9, 2010), most free throws made (tied Missouri State's mark in that same game), assists (North Dakota had 17 assists on 19 field goals on Dec. 20, 2010), assists by individual (junior guard Skylar Diggins had eight handouts, tying mark first set by Missouri State's Casey Garrison on Jan. 9, 2010) and steals by individual (fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory had six, one more than Garrison had, and Drake's Kristin Turk matched on Dec. 31, 2010) ... Sunday's 28-point margin was the largest winning spread for Notre Dame on the road since Jan. 15, 2011, when it posted an 82-50 victory at Pittsburgh ... the Fighting Irish held Creighton to an opponent season-low 11 first-half points, the fewest by a Notre Dame foe since Jan. 2, 2011, when Southeast Missouri State scored an opponent record-low six points in the first half of a 97-21 Fighting Irish win at Purcell Pavilion ... those 11 points also marked the sixth time this season Notre Dame has held an opponent to 20 points or fewer in a single half (including once in each of the past three games) ... Notre Dame posted double-digit steals for the sixth time this year, tallying 15-or-more thefts for the fifth time ... the Fighting Irish caused at least 20 opponent turnovers for the sixth time this year, topping 25 takeaways for the fourth time ... dating back to the start of the 2008-09 season, the Fighting Irish are 19-7 (.731) when playing for the second time in a 48-hour span (including a 3-0 record this year with wins over Indiana State, No. 7/6 Duke and Creighton) ... Notre Dame improves to 28-2 (.933) all-time against the current Missouri Valley Conference membership, with a 14-1 (.933) mark away from Purcell Pavilion (road/neutral sites combined) ... the Fighting Irish have won 10 consecutive games against MVC schools and are 19-1 (.950) against that conference in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) ... Notre Dame is 3-0 all-time against Creighton, with Sunday's game marking not only its first visit to Omaha, but its first-ever game in the state of Nebraska (the 38th state the Fighting Irish have played in, along with the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands) ... Notre Dame's .607 first-half field goal percentage marked the third consecutive half in which the Fighting Irish shot 60 percent or better against Creighton (.613 and .655 in two halves last year) -- in that three-period stretch, Notre Dame connected at a .625 clip from the field, making 55 of 88 shots against the Bluejays before "cooling off" to a .480 field goal percentage (12-of-25) in the second half on Sunday ... Notre Dame's assist percentage of .828 (24 assists on 29 field goals) was its best since March 26, 2010, when the Fighting Irish had an .857 assist percentage (24-of-28) in their 78-53 NCAA Dayton Regional semifinal win over No. 21/20 Oklahoma ... Notre Dame shot a season-high .895 (17-of-19) from the free throw line, its best performance at the charity stripe (with a minimum of 10 attempts) since Nov. 19, 2008, when the Fighting Irish made 11 of 12 foul shots (.917) in a 96-61 win over Evansville at Purcell Pavilion ... sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa easily topped her old career scoring high of 14 points that she set twice as a rookie last season, including the 91-54 Fighting Irish win over Creighton last Dec. 11 at Purcell Pavilion (more recently on Feb. 5, 2011, at South Florida) ... Achonwa (who also set a career high with eight field goals and tied another with 11 field goal attempts) became the fifth different Notre Dame player to lead the team in scoring at least once through eight games this season ... she also is the third Fighting Irish player to notch a 20-point game this year (Diggins has four, and senior guard Natalie Novosel has two) ... Achonwa scored her 20 points in only 18 minutes, notching her first career "point-a-minute" game and the first by a Notre Dame player since Nov. 12, 2010, when current fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters scored a career-high 23 points in 16 minutes against New Hampshire at Purcell Pavilion ... Achonwa's 20 points are the most by a Fighting Irish reserve since Dec. 30, 2010, when current sophomore guard Kayla McBride came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points in a 91-47 victory over Loyola Marymount at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle ... Diggins tied her season high with eight assists, first set on Nov. 11 vs. Akron at Purcell Pavilion ... Mallory tied her career high with six steals, matching her previous best from Nov. 15, 2009, against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, also at Purcell Pavilion ... Novosel moved into 24th place on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring list with 1,112 points, passing Danielle Green (1,106 from 1995-2000).