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ND Women’s Basketball

Perfect ending

| Monday, March 3, 2014

The No. 2 Irish capped their undefeated regular season Sunday with an 84-60 win over No. 13 NC State at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.

Junior guard Whitney Holloway attempts to gain control of the ball during Notre Dame’s 100-75 home win over UNC on Thursday.Jodi Lo

Junior guard Whitney Holloway attempts to gain control of the ball during Notre Dame’s 100-75 home win over UNC on Thursday.

Notre Dame (29-0, 16-0 ACC) wrapped up the ACC regular-season championship on Feb. 23 with an 81-70 win over Duke and followed that accomplishment up one week later by defeating NC State (24-6, 11-5) and winning its 52nd consecutive regular-season game, a school record.

“We’re thrilled that we are where we are right now,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “It’s very rewarding to go undefeated in the regular season. I think it shows what this team is made of in terms of their work ethic, their mental toughness to go through the grind of the season and be ready game after game after game. … I think it’s a phenomenal accomplishment, but you know, we’re not done yet.”

The Wolfpack kept the game close through most of the first half, but the Irish still took a 36-28 lead into the locker room at halftime. Notre Dame’s offense accelerated in the second half, during which time the Irish outscored the Wolfpack 48-32.

“We were able to stay in the game, and then at the end of the half we got free for a couple of good looks and made a couple of free throws,” McGraw said. “And I thought that gave us momentum, and then we started the second half well.”

Senior forward Natalie Achonwa led the way for the Irish with 19 points, and four Irish players scored in double digits. Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd supplied 18 points, and senior guard Kayla McBride and senior forward Ariel Braker added 12 points apiece.

Braker’s all-around performance, which included eight rebounds, particularly stood out, McGraw said.

“Incredible — she was phenomenal,” McGraw said. “I thought she was player of the game. She rebounded, she scored, she did a nice job defensively. She really played well.”

Wolfpack freshman guard Miah Spencer sparked production for NC State on offense with 18 points. Senior forward Kody Burke and senior center Markeisha Gatling provided support with 15 and 12 points, respectively.

As a whole, however, the Wolfpack could not find a consistent rhythm on offense, as the Irish held the home team to 38.1 percent shooting. Notre Dame shot 56.1 percent from the field and also bested NC State in the free throw category, with 18-of-19 shooting compared to NC State’s 6-of-11 performance from the line.

The Irish also outrebounded NC State, 41-27, with Braker’s eight boards leading the way. McBride and Irish freshman forward Taya Reimer posted seven rebounds each.

Notre Dame prevented the Wolfpack from making second-chance shot attempts by snagging 31 defensive rebounds and holding NC State to just 11 offensive rebounds. The Irish recorded 10 offensive rebounds.

Next up for Notre Dame is the ACC tournament, which will take place from March 7-9 in Greensboro, N.C. The NCAA championship follows, with the first round beginning March 22.

“It’s a good way to go into the tournament,” McGraw said. “I think we feel good. We really need a couple of days’ rest to prepare for it because it’s going to be brutal. … No matter who you’re playing, you’re probably playing a team that’s going to the NCAA tournament, so it’s going to be a battle.”

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu

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