SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame was nearly perfect on offense for a 16-minute stretch against DePaul. Yet after the game, coach Muffet McGraw was more concerned about the team’s defense in the second-ranked Irish’s 90-70 win over the Blue Demons.
“I was really disappointed with our defense,” she said. “I thought we had some really good spurts (on offense), had a nice spurt to start the second half, and then I subbed too early and we went flat. That was disappointing. But the posts were not ready to play and that was the most disappointing.”
Irish senior guard Brittany Mallory backed up her coach’s assessment.
“We love to win,” she said. “But there is always places for improvement. We gave up 70 points and that’s not what we are most proud of. We are looking to get better.”
The offense couldn’t get much better during that 16-minute stretch. Notre Dame didn’t miss many shots during its 56-point first half. The Irish shot a blistering 73-percent from the field. From the 13:54 mark of the first half to the 17:18 mark in the second half, they hit 22 of their 24 shots to build a 34-point lead.
McGraw started subbing liberally and the Blue Demons rallied behind Jasmine Perry’s 24 points and Katherine Harry’s 20.
“Katherine Harry played a great game (matched her career high in scoring with 20) and I’m sure that (Jasmine) Penny had a career high (24 points). Those two really gave us trouble inside and it was disappointing that our posts were not able to defend.”
The win was the 20th straight for Notre Dame matching the second longest streak in school history. Notre Dame is just three victories short of the school record set by the 2000-01 team that won the school’s lone national championship and shared the BIG EAST title. The Irish matched the 2000 squad that won 20 in a row.
DePaul (17-7, 5-5 BIG EAST) was coming off a rout of then-No. 14 Louisville on Tuesday night. The Blue Demons, who are down to only seven healthy players because of injuries, had a much tougher time against Notre Dame.
“Notre Dame has five players that I will probably vote for All-Big East,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said.
“And I think they are one of the four teams that have a chance to win the national championship.”
The five Notre Dame players Bruno mentioned all contributed. Natalie Novosel scored 17 of her 21 points in the first half. Skylar Diggins had a double-double (11 points, 10 assists), Mallory contributed 14, Deveraux Peters 11, and Kayla McBride added seven points. Reserve Natalie Achonwa added 16.
“Mallory and McBride are underrated,” Bruno said.
Notre Dame continued its offensive onslaught building a 56-31 halftime lead. Achonwa had 12 of her points in the first half, making all five of her shots.
Material from interviews, school websites, the Associated Press wire service as well as league and team sources was used in this report.