Dec. 29, 2013
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw didn't think her unbeaten team had been tested until facing Oregon State on Sunday.
"It's a huge win for us," McGraw said. "It's great to be behind and have a close game at the end and see how we respond."
Notre Dame (11-0) scored the final five points of the first half to pull to 33-31 at halftime for its first deficit at the break this season. The Irish then got the first six points of the second half to take the lead for good.
McBride said the road game before a hostile crowd of more than 4,000 felt like an NCAA tournament matchup.
"I know we have a target on our back and everybody is going to bring us their best game," she said.
Oregon State certainly did that.
"They played so hard, and I respect that a lot," McBride added.
Jamie Weisner scored 18 points to lead the Beavers (8-4), and Ruth Hamblin added 12 points, eight rebounds and a school record-tying nine blocks.
"We had a lot of turnovers down the stretch. We totally could have won that game," Weisner said.
Beavers coach Scott Rueck felt his team got some needed confidence despite the loss.
"This team competed for 40 minutes, just laser focus," Rueck said. "We know we can play with anybody."
Oregon State didn't trail until Ali Gibson's 3-pointer with 13:06 left in the first half.
Hamblin's putback had stretched the Beavers' lead to 33-26 with 55 seconds left in the opening half. The Irish then used its 11-0 spurt to take the lead for good.
Notre Dame began the day leading the nation in field goal shooting (52.2 percent) and 3-point shooting (44.9 percent), but the Irish shot 36 percent overall in the first half and 1-for-6 on 3s.
"Definitely credit their defense," McGraw said. "We got good looks, but we really missed the shots that normally we'll make."
With 1:25 left, however, Ariel Braker got a steal off an inbounds play for Oregon State, and McBride made a jumper to push the lead to 66-58. Braker blocked Weisner on the Beavers' next possession.
McGraw said defense was critical to the comeback.
"When we contained the ball and didn't give them driving lanes, we were able to really shut them down," she said. "They couldn't kick it out to wide open shooters."
Sophomore Jewell Loyd, last year's national freshman of the year, had 10 points for the Irish -- 8.5 below her team-leading average coming in.
The Irish, who have reached the Final Four each of the last three years and title games in 2011 and 2012, are off to their best start since 2009-10, when they began 15-0.
Notre Dame's next game is Jan. 2 against South Dakota State.
Weisner, a sophomore guard, entered the contest as the Beavers top scorer at 14.9 points per game. OSU has a young team, with four underclassmen starters.
Sunday's game was the start of a tough stretch for the Beavers, who open Pac-12 play next week with games against No. 23 California and No. 4 Stanford.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 11-0, extending the third-best start in program history and best since a 15-0 debut in 2009-10 ... the Fighting Irish have won 34 consecutive regular season games, dating back to Dec. 5, 2012 (a 73-61 loss to No. 3 Baylor at Purcell Pavilion) ... Notre Dame has won a school-record 26 consecutive regular season road games (and 33 of its last 38 overall) since a 94-81 loss at top-ranked Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT championship game ... the Fighting Irish are 58-7 (.892) against new opponents since the start of the 1995-96 season, including a 38-3 (.927) mark against first-time foes this century (since start of the 2000-01 campaign) and an active 14-game winning streak ... this was Notre Dame's closest game against a new opponent since its last visit to the Pacific Northwest exactly three years earlier on Dec. 29, 2010, when the Fighting Irish defeated Gonzaga, 70-61, at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic at Key Arena in Seattle ... Notre Dame are 26-20 (.565) all-time against current Pac-12 Conference teams, including a 15-16 (.484) mark away from home (road/neutral sites combined) ... the Fighting Irish have won 23 of their last 30 games against current Pac-12 schools, including both matchups this year (Notre Dame defeated UCLA, 90-48 on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion) ... this season was the first that the Fighting Irish played two Pac-12 teams in the same regular season since 2002-03 when they won at USC (69-57) and Arizona State (81-52) ... Notre Dame has won its last 11 games coming off the Christmas holiday and is 26-11 (.703) all-time in its first game after the Christmas break, including a 12-5 (.706) record away from home (road/neutral combined) and a 20-7 (.741) mark in the 27-year Muffet McGraw era ... the Fighting Irish have won all 11 of their games this season by double digits ... Notre Dame faced its largest deficit of the season (seven points) when Oregon State took a 33-25 lead with 55.1 seconds left in the first half (previous largest deficit was six points, 13-7 at No. 10/11 Penn State on Dec. 4) ... the Fighting Irish trailed at halftime for the first time this season and their 31 first-half points were a season low for the opening 20 minutes (previous was 34 at Penn on Nov. 23) ... Notre Dame committed a season-low nine turnovers, its fewest giveaways since Feb. 17, 2013, when it had eight turnovers in a win at Marquette ... the Fighting Irish tied their season low with a .625 free throw percentage, a mark they first set against Valparaiso on Nov. 16 at Purcell Pavilion ... OSU's Ruth Hamblin tied a Notre Dame opponent record with nine blocked shots, matching the mark set by Connecticut's Tina Charles on Jan. 27, 2007 ... Oregon State's 10 blocks were a Fighting Irish opponent season-high and most against Notre Dame since April 7, 2013, when Connecticut had 12 blocks in the NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinal in New Orleans ... Notre Dame held OSU to a season-low 58 points, and for the eighth time this year, the Fighting Irish held the opposition to a field goal percentage of less than 40 percent ... Notre Dame is 5-0 this season when holding opponents to less than 60 points, and 283-15 (.950) in the past 19 seasons (since 1995-96) when posting such a defensive effort ... senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride posted her second 20-point game of the season and 10th of her career ... senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa moved up two spots to 25th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list, now with 1,158 points to pass former teammate Becca Bruszewski (1,148 from 2007-11) and Courtney LaVere (1,150 from 2002-06) ... Achonwa also jumped up to ninth place on Notre Dame's career rebounding list with 776 boards, passing Sandy Botham (774 from 1984-88) ... junior guard Madison Cable tied her career high with seven rebounds for the sixth time in her career and second time this year (she had seven boards against No. 25 DePaul on Nov. 26 at Purcell Pavilion).