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ND Women’s Basketball

No. 2 Notre Dame pulls away from No. 3 Duke

| Sunday, February 2, 2014

No. 3 Duke kept No. 2 Notre Dame within striking distance for the first 25 minutes of Sunday’s matinee, but the Irish ran away with the second half to hand the Blue Devils a 88-67 loss, their first defeat at home by a conference opponent since 2008.

Senior forward Kayla McBride looks for a pass while defended by Miami senior guard Krystal Saunders on Jan. 23. McBride picked up a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds against Duke on Sunday.Leah Billion

Senior forward Kayla McBride looks for a pass while defended by Miami senior guard Krystal Saunders on Jan. 23. McBride picked up a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds against Duke on Sunday.

“I’m really, really impressed with the game,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We could have rebounded better, but the offense did a really nice job. I thought [senior guard] Kayla McBride, [sophomore guard] Jewell Loyd, [freshman guard] Lindsay Allen and [senior forward] Natalie Achonwa, they really came out and played one of their best games of the year.”

Allen scored a layup four seconds into the game, and from then on the Irish (21-0, 8-0 ACC) never trailed. The Irish jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the opening minutes, but four consecutive Duke baskets by senior guard Tricia Liston cut the advantage to two halfway through the first period. The Irish went on a 11-0 run several minutes later to extend a 26-23 lead to 37-23 before heading into halftime up 44-34.

The Blue Devils (21-2, 8-1) came out of the break with a vengeance, opening the half with a 5-0 run. They were able to hold the deficit in the single digits for a time, but a three-point shot by Irish sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey with 14:13 remaining put Notre Dame up by 10, and after that the Blue Devils could never catch up.

“We got a little sloppy, turned the ball over a couple of times,” McGraw said when asked about the opening minutes of the second half. “We didn’t rebound, and they got some offensive rebounds. They’re a really good team, so you expect they’re going to have a stretch where they’re going to make some shots and I felt we weathered the storm and were able to come out on top.”

Kayla McBride made her first five shots and finished the afternoon with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Duke’s leading scorer, Liston, also netted 23 points.

“She played well,” McGraw said of Liston. “I thought that we actually did a pretty good job on her for a stretch in the second half, but she still ended up with 23 points. She’s one of the best players in the league, really hard to guard, and she played well.”

Achonwa and Allen both scored 15 points, while Loyd added 17. The Irish bench added an extra 18 points, while the Duke bench scored just three.

“I thought the bench was critical in the win,” McGraw said. “We just got such great production from everybody who came in the game. And that’s kind of a hostile environment, a really great crowd and atmosphere, and we really played well.”

The loss was the second of the year for the Blue Devils, who have now lost to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country, both times by double digits. No. 1 UConn won, 83-61, when the two teams met in Durham, N.C., on Dec. 17.

The Irish are still undefeated after 21 games, but McGraw said she is not worried about keeping her team focused.

“It’s easy,” she said. “We have a goal, and we’re working every day to it. We can’t get too high after one win, and we have to get ready for Florida State.”

The ACC gauntlet continues Thursday when the Irish head to Tallahassee, Fla., to take on No. 23 Florida State at 7 p.m.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu

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