Dec. 7, 2011
And while coach Muffet McGraw didn't want to reveal what the prize was, she could not have been happier with both players' performance in Notre Dame's 95-42 victory over Marquette in the BIG EAST Conference opener for both teams.
The No. 3-ranked Irish (8-1, 1-0) beat the Golden Eagles (5-5, 0-1) by forcing 37 turnovers, 18 of which were steals. Diggins had six of those steals and Mallory two. For the season, Diggins leads the competition 32-26.
"I gotta beat Brittany," Diggins said. "We take that (steal competition) very seriously. But really, our defensive mindset is pretty much that you don't be the one that messes up so we put a lot of effort into it."
Kayla McBride led Notre Dame with 19 points. Diggins added 17 points, and Natalie Novosel and Mallory each had 11. Devereaux Peters had 10 rebounds to go with nine points. Sarina Simmons led Marquette with 14.
Notre Dame was efficient with their turnovers, scoring 46 points. They were also able to pass the ball inside at will, scoring 52 points in the paint.
McGraw had an easy explanation for that.
"Our 3-point shooting showed up tonight," she said of her team's 7-for-13 effort from beyond the arc. "That opens up the paint for us."
Marquette coach Terri Mitchell was visibly angry at her team's showing.
"I'm going to remember this game for a long time," she said. "I am completely embarrassed by our performance. I don't expect anyone who puts on a Marquette uniform to perform the way we did. I know we are young, but this is unacceptable. I'm not happy in any way. I am very disappointed in the way that we did not fight tonight and had three games worth of turnovers."
McGraw said that playing at top-ranked Baylor (a 94-81 loss on November 20) showed her team the things they needed to work on and that a lot of that improvement showed up against Marquette.
"This was the closest we have been all year to playing a perfect game," she said. "We played hard for all 40 minutes, even when our bench players came in there was no let up."
Notre Dame forced four early turnovers and used a 9-0 run to jump out to an early 11-3 edge at the 17:15 mark. The defensive intensity continued to pay dividends in the next six minutes, as the Irish forced another five turnovers and converted most of them into easy layups for a 29-12 lead.
Notre Dame had 15 points off turnovers in the first nine minutes. Notre Dame set up in the Marquette paint for the rest of the half and went into the intermission with a 51-23 lead.
Novosel and Diggins each had 11 at halftime while the Golden Eagles' Simmons also had 11.
At the half, Notre Dame had 15 assists on 21 field goals. The Irish had forced 17 turnovers, including nine steals. Notre Dame shot 58 percent while holding Marquette to 36 percent in the first half.
Notre Dame forced the Golden Eagles into eight consecutive turnovers early in the second half, building the lead to 65-25.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is 13-4 (.765) in BIG EAST openers since joining the conference in 1995-96, including wins in 11 of its last 13 league lidlifters ... Wednesday's 53-point margin of victory was the largest for the Fighting Irish in a BIG EAST regular-season game since Jan. 31, 1998, when Notre Dame defeated Seton Hall, 91-35 at Purcell Pavilion (the program record for largest winning margin in a BIG EAST regular-season game) ... the last time Notre Dame knocked off a conference opponent by 53 points or more came on March 4, 2001, when the Fighting Irish downed Georgetown, 89-33, in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. ... this was the largest margin of victory for Notre Dame in any conference opener (regardless of affilation) since the Fighting Irish first joined a league for women's basketball in 1983-84 with the now-defunct North Star Conference -- the previous largest win in a conference opener was two years ago, an 81-46 victory over Villanova on Jan. 9, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion ... the margin also tied the largest spread in the 37-game series between Notre Dame and Marquette (109-56 ND win on Dec. 21, 1990, at Purcell Pavilion), a rivalry that dates back to the first season of Fighting Irish women's basketball in 1977-78 ... the Fighting Irish lead the all-time series with the Golden Eagles, 31-6, including a 19-1 record at home (and an active 18-game winning streak at Purcell Pavilion, starting with the 1981-82 season ... Notre Dame topped the 50-point mark in the first half for the third time this season, having tallied a season-high 58 points in the opening 20 minutes vs. Indiana State (Nov. 13) and 50 points in the first half against Hartford (Nov. 17) ... in its last seven halves of basketball (starting with the second half vs. No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 in Freeport, Bahamas), Notre Dame has held its opponent to 23 points or fewer in a half six times (lone exception was the second half at Creighton on Dec. 4, when the Bluejays scored 37 points) ... the Fighting Irish notch their third 50-point win of the season ... Notre Dame has held eight opponents to 61 points or fewer this year (five to fewer than 50 points, including the past three) ... Notre Dame's 29 assists tied for eighth on the Fighting Irish single-game list, and are the most they have logged in a game since Nov. 15, 2009, when they had 31 handouts in a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion ... Notre Dame forced its opponent into at least 30 turnovers for the fourth time this year ... in five home games this year, Notre Dame is forcing an average of 34.4 opponent turnovers per game (highlighted by 20.4 steals per night) ... the Fighting Irish had four double-digit scorers for the fourth time, improving to 38-4 (.905) during the past three seasons (2009-10 to present) with at least four players scoring in double figures ... McBride finished one point shy of her career high, set on Dec. 30, 2010, vs. Loyola Marymount at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle ... Diggins tied her season high with six steals (also vs. Indiana State on Nov. 13) ... Diggins moved into 18th place on the Notre Dame all-time scoring list with 1,227 points, passing Letitia Bowen (1,219 from 1991-95) ... freshman guard Whitney Holloway had season highs of four assists and four rebounds ... sophomore forward Ariel Braker collected a season-best six points ... for the second game in a row, Notre Dame had a player post a "point-a-minute" performance with senior guard Natalie Novosel chalking up 11 points in 11 minutes (sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa had 20 points in 18 minutes last Sunday at Creighton) ... Novosel also extended her streak of consecutive double-figure scoring games to 16 in a row, dating back to last year's BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 9/13 DePaul at the XL Center in Hartford Conn. (she had eight points in a 71-67 win on March 7, 2011) ... for the second time this season, Mallory went perfect from the three-point line with a minimum of three attempts (she was 4-for-4 from distance against Hartford on Nov. 17).