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ND Women’s Basketball: Big East Blowout

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In the 37th meeting between No. 3 Notre Dame and Marquette, the Irish turned in one of the best performances in the matchup’s history Wednesday with a 95-42 win over Marquette at the Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish (8-1, 1-0) opened the Big East portion of their schedule with a big win over the Golden Eagles (5-5, 0-1 Big East), extending their current winning streak to five games and pushing their advantage in the all-time series to 31-6.

Notre Dame secured the 53-point margin of victory — tied for the largest margin of victory in series history — by shooting 57.8 percent from the floor, including 7-13 from behind the arc. The 95 points represent the team’s third-highest point total of the season and was led by sophomore guard Kayla McBride’s 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting.

Senior guard Brittney Mallory contributed 11 points on 3-3 shooting from three-point range.

McBride barely edged out junior guard Skylar Diggins in the points column, who collected 17 points, six steals and seven assists, including an electrifying behind-the-back pass to sophomore guard Natalie Achonwa midway through the first half. Diggins’ assist total led the Irish effort, resulting in 29 assists — the most since a Nov. 15, 2009 victory over Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

“I thought [Diggins] played extremely well,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “She really did distribute the ball and she threw some great passes, kind of got the crowd excited with a couple of them. She shot the ball well. I was really pleased.”

Notre Dame was especially successful getting the ball inside, as the team poured in 52 of its 95 points from inside the key.

“We worked a lot on the high-low, getting the ball in the paint, and they were just finishing,” Diggins said of Notre Dame’s post players. “Catching and finishing, dribble penetration, they were finding open seams, we really just worked well around the paint area today. You have to credit [graduate student forward] Devereaux [Peters], Ace [Achonwa], [freshman forward] Markisha [Wright] and [sophomore forward] Ariel [Braker], for being around the area and being ready for the ball. When their numbers were called, they stepped up.”

As impressive as the Irish were on offense, they were equally dominant on defense. The Irish held Marquette to 29.5 percent shooting and forced 37 turnovers.

“I was really pleased with the defense,” McGraw said. “I thought the press was good, the pressure in the half court was good, we turned them over and we didn’t let up.”

Junior forward Sarina Simmons led the Golden Eagles’ futile offensive effort with 14 points, only three of which came in the second half.

Notre Dame also managed to outrebound the Golden Eagles, an area in which they have struggled to succeed all season. Peters grabbed 10 rebounds for the Irish and added nine points, falling just short of a double-double.

Notre Dame’s success across the board against Marquette represented a near perfect performance, McGraw said.

“It was as close as we’ve been all year,” McGraw said. “I think it was, start to finish, a good effort all around. I think that was definitely our best game thus far in the season.”

Having captured a win in their first conference matchup of the season, the Irish will not play another Big East opponent until Jan. 4, when they travel to East Orange, N.J. to face Seton Hall.

“It’s really important to get off to a good start, because now we have to wait almost a month to get our next conference game in.”

Before resuming Big East play, the Irish will enter a rough stretch of games during which they travel to No. 12 Purdue on Dec. 10 before hosting No. 10 Kentucky on Dec. 18.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu