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ND Women’s Basketball: UCLA, Kentucky take down Notre Dame

Chris Masoud | Monday, November 22, 2010

After opening the season with blowout victories over New Hampshire and Morehead State, Notre Dame has dropped consecutive matches by narrow margins against two ranked opponents.

After falling to No. 15 UCLA last Thursday 86-83 in double overtime, the No. 12 Irish never established a rhythm against No. 9 Kentucky, falling 81-76 Sunday in Memorial Coliseum.

Junior guard Natalie Novosel led the Irish (2-2) on offense, finishing with 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists. Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins chipped in 18 points, and freshman Natalie Achonwa grabbed 13 rebounds.

Notre Dame bested the Wildcats (3-0) on the boards by a margin of 51-35, but was unable to contain Kentucky’s Victoria Dunlap, an explosive forward and the 2009-10 SEC Player of the Year. Dunlap scored 24 points and contributed 14 rebounds, leading the Wildcats on both ends of the floor.

Despite cutting the lead to one possession multiple times during the second half, Notre Dame was never able to overcome a 19-2 Kentucky run in the first half. The tandem of Dunlap and Keyla Snowden, who finished with 17 points after going 5-12 behind the arc, prevented the Irish from taking a lead whenever they were in striking distance.

Perhaps the most striking differential on the stat sheet is the performance from the three-point line. Notre Dame finished 2-for-15 from three-point land, including 0-for-8 in the second half. The Wildcats went 8-for-27 from behind the arc, shooting 46 percent in the second.

Sunday’s contest marked the first meeting between the two programs. The loss snapped Notre Dame’s 18-game win streak against first-time opponents and its four-game win streak against Southeastern Conference teams.

Senior guard Brittany Mallory sat out Sunday’s game after rolling her ankle during Thursday’s loss to UCLA and is currently day-to-day. Freshman guard Kayla McBride started in her place, alongside Diggins, Novosel, junior forward Devereaux Peters and senior Becca Bruszewski.

This season’s starting lineup is a stark contrast to last season’s, when Irish coach Muffet McGraw regularly started four seniors.

The Irish take the court next against IUPUI Friday at 2 p.m. at the Purcell Pavilion.