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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish down DePaul, stay undefeated in Big East

Molly Sammon | Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Irish won their 20th straight game for the third time in program history after beating DePaul 90-70 at the Purcell Pavilion on Sunday. No. 2 Notre Dame is just three wins shy of tying the consecutive record set by the 2000-01 team that went on to win the national championship.

“We love to win, but we always have space for improvement,” Irish fifth-year guard Brittany Mallory said. “We can see that today because we gave up 70 points to DePaul. That’s not what we’re proud of. We’re always looking to get better on both ends.”

Eight of the last 12 games between Notre Dame (23-1, 10-0 Big East) and DePaul (17-7, 5-5) came down to single-digit margins.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Irish looked strong. Notre Dame closed out the first half with 56 points, its third highest first-half score this season. The Irish shot 72 percent from the field and 85 percent on three-pointers before the break.

Senior guard Natalie Novosel shot 8-for-12 from the field, highlighted by three 3-pointers and 17 points in the first half. She finished with 21 points to lead the Irish in scoring. Junior guard Skylar Diggins earned a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists.

Three more Irish players scored more than 10 points, including Mallory with 14, sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa with 16 and graduate student forward Devereaux Peters with 11, sharing the offensive wealth.

“[Passing] has been the hallmark of our team,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We are an incredibly unselfish group. It starts at the point [guard position] with Skylar. She is doing a great job with her assist-to-turnover ratio.

“We find somebody that has a better shot than we do, and we are willing to give it up. We don’t care about the credit. We just want the win. That’s something I’ve been really proud of all year long.”

Despite the point-heavy first half, McGraw didn’t see the defense she wanted to see against the Blue Demons.

“I still complained about the defense at halftime,” McGraw said. “I was just overall disappointed with the defense the entire game. Our transition defense gave up layups and our post defense struggled. You have to credit [DePaul]. Their post play was outstanding. They just played so well, and we couldn’t guard them one-on-one.”

Notre Dame’s early lead allowed McGraw to substitute bench players earlier than usual, specifically junior guard Kaila Turner, who added six points for the Irish.

“I subbed too early and we went flat,” McGraw said. “That was disappointing. The posts just weren’t ready to play today. I think that was the most disappointing part of the game … Our posts just weren’t able to defend.”

Mallory and the Irish kept DePaul’s leading scorer, junior guard Anna Martin, in check, as she shot just 17 percent from the field.

“Brittany Mallory was outstanding as always,” McGraw said. “She locked down their leading scorer. She did a magnificent job as she does every game.”

The Irish travel to Syracuse, N.Y, to take on the Orange at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday at 7 p.m.



Contact Molly Sammon at [email protected]