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ND Women’s Basketball: Getting defensive

Laura Myers | Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins said No. 12 Notre Dame’s focus for this year is to own the first four minutes of each game.   

Against Morehead State Monday night, the Irish owned more than that as they defeated the Eagles 91-28 at the Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame (2-0) held Morehead State (0-2) without a field goal for nearly nine minutes and went into halftime leading 40-7. The halftime score tied a school record for fewest points allowed in a half, last achieved in 1985.

“We need to set the tone early,” Diggins said. “We need to start the game with defensive intensity.”

Eagles coach Tom Hodges said his team had watched tape from last year’s Notre Dame squad, which did not play the same type of defense.

“We’re just better defensively,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think we’re quicker. I think we have a mindset, and defense is all about the mindset. I don’t think we had it as much in the past and now this group really likes to defend and you can tell.”

Notre Dame had 26 steals three days after setting a new school record with 36 against New Hampshire Friday. The Irish scored 35 points off of 40 total Eagles turnovers.

“That’s something we’re trying to pride ourselves on, is how we’re playing defensively,” McGraw said. “We are playing hard for 40 minutes.”

By the time Eagles forward Channing Hillman made an easy layup with 11 minutes to go in the first half, Notre Dame had 20 points. Senior forward Becca Bruszewski scored the first basket of the game just six seconds after tip-off.

“Offensively, from the start of the game, from the jump, I saw it was going to be a good game,” Diggins said. “On the first play of the game, Becca was wide open.”

Diggins finished the game with nine points and eight assists, one away from a personal best.

Freshman guard Kayla McBride led the scoring with 14 points. She also had six rebounds and two steals. Freshman forward Natalie Achonwa wasn’t far behind, with 10 points and three rebounds.

“They’re capable of having big nights,” McGraw said. “Both of them have lots of poise for freshmen.”

Junior guard Natalie Novosel followed McBride with 13 points and sophomore guard Kaila Turner had 10. 

Six more players scored at least five points.

Bruszewski led the team with seven rebounds, and eight more players had at least three boards.

“Everybody on this team has a role, and when we all play together, we’re dangerous,” Diggins said.

Eagles guard Chynna Bozeman led the scoring for her team with 12 points. The Eagles shot just 17.5 percent from the field, including a 2-of-18 effort in the first half.

The Eagles played their first game Friday at No. 9 Kentucky, losing 84-48. Notre Dame will play at Kentucky Saturday after facing No. 16 UCLA at home Thursday.

“We’re ready for the challenge,” McGraw said. “I think we’re all looking forward to the next game just to see where are we really. We have an idea after two games of some things we’re good at. Now we need to find out what we’re not good at.”

Thursday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Purcell Pavilion.