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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish trump Massachusets for big win

By Matthew Robison | Monday, November 19, 2012

Junior guard Kayla McBride led Notre Dame’s 94-50 rout of Massachusetts on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion with 18 points and five steals. Ten different Irish players scored in the blowout and No. 7 Notre Dame forced 34 turnovers with 21 steals.

“We’ve really been working hard at double-teaming, running at the ball and trying to make our defense get the offense to be really uncomfortable,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “That’s kind of our goal.”

The Minutewomen (1-3) shot just 40 percent from the field, and Notre Dame’s pressure never allowed Massachusetts to get into an offensive rhythm.

Senior guard Skylar Diggins echoed her coach’s emphasis on the high-pressure defense.

“We try to get up and make the offense uncomfortable,” Diggins said. “It starts with the full-court pressure. I think that it’s my job to put pressure on the point guard and make her give it up. We were kind of making other people bring the ball up. That triggers our transition.”

Notre Dame (2-0) got production from all three of its post players in its home opener. Junior forward Natalie Achonwa had eight points, eight rebounds and four assists.

“[Achonwa] shot the ball well, she rebounded well,” McGraw said. “I thought she was a really big presence for us inside.”

Sophomore forward Markisha Wright was perfect from the field, shooting 4-for-4 with nine points and four assists.

“She’s still trying to find her opportunities,” McGraw said. “We’re trying to look for her a little bit more. I was really happy with her game.”

Junior forward Ariel Braker added seven points in just 13 minutes off the bench.

“Ariel Braker really gave us a shot of energy off the bench,” McGraw said. “I thought she worked really hard. She battled inside, got a couple of blocks and a couple of good passes too.”

After a 17-0 run in the first half, Notre Dame jumped out to a 33-9 lead and led 53-19 at the half.

Notre Dame effectively shut down Massachusetts’ best player, senior center Jasmine Watson, who averaged 18.5 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks per game coming into the game. Watson is a South Bend native and was a high school teammate of Diggins at Washington High School. The Irish held Watson to just eight points and eight rebounds. She fouled out with 7:25 remaining in the game, spoiling her homecoming. But Diggins said she was glad to be reunited with her former teammate.

“I hadn’t seen her in a while, so it was good seeing her,” Diggins said. “I’d never played against her before.”

Notre Dame shot 55 percent from the field, but the Irish struggled from behind the arc, shooting just 21 percent.

“I think we’re a really good shooting team and I expect us to shoot that well every game,” McGraw said. “I think we’re a much better 3-point shooting team today than we showed today.”

Diggins finished with 15 points and seven assists, freshman guard Jewell Loyd had 13 points and freshman guard Michaela Mabrey chipped in 10 points.

“Like last year’s team, we’ve got a lot of weapons, a lot of people who can score and that can shoot the ball,” Diggins said. “It’s just a matter of finding the open person. I think sometimes we overpass a little bit, try to think too much for each other. I like that we’re sharing the ball.”

The Irish donned the same golden uniforms with camouflage accents they wore for the Carrier Classic against Ohio State on Nov. 9 in Charleston, S.C. Notre Dame also honored veterans in attendance during a pregame ceremony and at halftime.

Sophomore guard Madison Cable did not play because of a sore foot.

The Irish will play Mercer on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu