Dec. 30, 2011
MACON, Ga. (AP) - After watching Notre Dame set a school record with 72 points in the first half, coach Muffet McGraw had a simple message for her players:
"Let's keep doing it."
The No. 3 Fighting Irish kept piling up the points - and the school records, including for most points in a game - and overwhelmed Mercer 128-42 Friday night.
"I thought we executed really well," McGraw said.
Notre Dame (13-1) set school marks for the biggest margin of victory, most free throws made (43) and attempted (52) and points in a half. The Irish matched their best shooting night in school history by making 70.2 percent of their shots (40 of 57) from the field.
The rout was painful, said Mercer's Ry'van Buchanan.
"We've got to go get some ice, put it on our behinds and just keep learning," Buchanan said.
Mercer coach Susie Gardner, who played on two Final Four teams at Georgia, called Notre Dame "just a great team."
"They're not huge, they're not overly `wow' athletic, but they play so hard," Gardner said. "They just know the game. They're just basketball players."
The Irish needed only the first 10 minutes of the second half to reach 100 points for the first time this season.
Notre Dame (13-1), looking for a repeat trip to the NCAA championship game, opens its BIG EAST schedule at Seton Hall on Wednesday.
Mercer (3-10) couldn't run its offense effectively against the pressure of the Irish's man-to-man defense. The Bears had 28 turnovers, leading to 55 points for Notre Dame.
Diggins and Wright led seven Notre Dame scorers in double figures. Kaila Turner had 17. Natalie Novosel and Natalie Achonwa each had 13 for the Irish, who lost to Texas A&M in last season's national championship game.
Briana Williams led Mercer with 10 points but made only 2 of 12 shots from the field.
Wright's three-point play with 3:29 remaining pushed Notre Dame past its previous record of 113 points against Liberty on Nov. 24, 1989.
"I had no clue about the history," Wright said.
Wright, who made 10 of 12 shots, played 20 minutes off the bench. She said a deep bench helps to guard against Notre Dame players relaxing after building a big lead.
"You take very minute you play your hardest," Wright said, adding "if you get out, you might not come back in."
Notre Dame led 72-30 at halftime to easily set a team record for the most points in a half, topping the 62 points it scored in the second half against West Virginia on Jan. 9, 1997.
The Irish made 24 of 30 shots (80 percent) from the field in the dominant half.
Notre Dame came within one point of matching the team record for the biggest halftime lead - 43 points at 58-15 against Indiana State on Nov. 13.
Buchanan opened the game with a basket for Mercer. Notre Dame scored the next 17 points, as its defense caused an immediate rash of turnovers for the Bears.
Mercer managed to attempt only two shots from the field before Sharmesia Smith scored with 15:13 remaining in the half to end Notre Dame's 17-0 run.
"That's just a reality check just to toughen us up," Buchanan said.
"It's tough, real tough, to get embarrassed by almost 100 points."
McGraw said she scheduled the game to give Atlanta native Fraderica Miller a chance to play in her home state. Miller, a senior guard, made her first career start and had eight points, 11 rebounds and three steals.
It was Notre Dame's first game in the state of Georgia in 15 years.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame set or tied eight school records during Friday night's win at Mercer:
Notre Dame's 128 points also are tied for 17th-most in a single game in NCAA Division I history, and most by a Division I team in a game since Nov. 29, 2002, when Tennessee scored 136 points against Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (the highest by any team this season was Oklahoma, which scored 117 vs. Sacramento State on Nov. 13) ... the 72 points scored by the Fighting Irish in the first half are tied for eighth-most in a single half in NCAA Division I history and most since Nov. 30, 1996, when Richmond scored 73 in a half against Delaware State ... Notre Dame's .702 field goal percentage is second-best in the nation for a single game this year, topped only Connecticut's .707 mark (41-of-58) in a win at home over Pacific on Nov. 15 ... Notre Dame set a school record with its fourth consecutive 90-point game, topping the old mark of three in a row set from Jan. 23-30, 1999 ... junior guard Skylar Diggins' 8-for-8 shooting night was the best by a Fighting Irish player (minimum seven attempts) since Dec. 11, 2004, when Crystal Erwin made all nine of her shots in a win over Washington at Purcell Pavilion ... Mercer set a Notre Dame opponent record with 37 fouls, topping the old mark of 35 fouls set by Xavier on Feb. 8, 1986, at Purcell Pavilion ... senior guard Natalie Novosel extended her streak of consecutive games scoring in double figures to 21 in a row, tying Karen Robinson (Dec. 29, 1990-March 9, 1991) for the fifth-longest run in school history ... Notre Dame's current 10-game winning streak is its longest since a 15-game run to open the 2009-10 season ... the Fighting Irish are off to a 13-1 start or better for the fifth time in school history, and the third time in four years (Notre Dame started 14-0 in both 2000-01 and 2009-10, and 13-1 in 2004-05 and 2008-09) ... the Fighting Irish finished a perfect 8-0 in the month of December, the seventh unblemished December in school history and fourth in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era (along with 2000-01, 2007-08 and 2009-10) ... the Fighting Irish are 21-14 (.600) in their final game of the calendar year, including an 18-7 (.720) record in the McGraw era and an active five-game winning streak when closing out the month of December ... Notre Dame had a season-high seven players score in double figures, one off the school record set on Nov. 15, 2009, vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion (that 102-57 win also was the last time the Fighting Irish broke the century mark prior to Friday night) ... Notre Dame is 51-7 (.879) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, with a 31-3 (.912) mark since the start of the 2000-01 season ... Friday marked the ninth time this year the Fighting Irish have opened up a 20-point lead within the first 12:13 of a game, with Notre Dame going on to win all nine times by an average of 51.6 points per game ... senior guard Fraderica Miller earned her first career start on Friday, and playing in front of close to 30 family and friends, as well as countless supporters from her nearby hometown of Atlanta, Miller finished with eight points and a career-high 11 rebounds ... freshman forward Markisha Wright scored a season/career-high 24 points, becoming the fourth different Fighting Irish player to tally 20 points in a game this season (and second to come off the bench and do so, following sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa's career-high 20 points at Creighton on Dec. 4) ... for the second time in three games, junior guard Kaila Turner posted a career-high point total, finishing wth 17 points and tying her career best with three three-pointers ... Achonwa blocked a career-high three shots ... three different players had "point-a-minute" games for Notre Dame, as Wright scored 24 points in 20 minutes, Diggins had 21 points in 16 minutes and Achonwa netted 13 points in 12 minutes ... research is pending on additional records resulting from Friday night's game, so please check back to this space for possible additions as that research is completed.