Nov. 9, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With Skylar Diggins gone to graduation and forward Natalie Achonwa out at least a month with a torn meniscus, Notre Dame entered Saturday’s season opener with some uncertainty.
That quickly disappeared as they jumped out to a 19-7 lead over the first seven minutes en route to a 99-50 blowout of UNC Wilmington. Notre Dame dominated the undersized Seahawks on the boards, outrebounding them 52-24 and outscoring them 58-24 in the paint and 16-0 off fastbreaks.
Jewell Loyd and reserve Michaela Mabrey led the Irish with 19 points each, followed by 17 points from Kayla McBride, who left the game early because of the lopsided margin. Notre Dame was never threatened by UNC Wilmington.
“We did shoot the ball well,” said McGraw of her team’s 63 percent shooting. “We got a lot of lay-ups, but I thought Michaela and Jewell shot it pretty well. I thought offensively we executed really well. We got good shots and we were able to make them. It was a career-high scoring performance for Mabrey.
“She seems to be playing with more confidence,” said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. “She’s looking to score more and we’re encouraging her to shoot it more. She’s always been a really good passer.”
McGraw added that she was impressed with Loyd and McBride. “I thought they looked in mid-season form. I thought the freshman Lindsay Allen came out and played extremely well the first game of her career. She shot the ball well and did a nice job defensively.”
Allen scored 11 points with two steals and two assists in 16 minutes of play. Freshman forward Kristina Nelson contributed nine points and four rebounds in just 14 minutes.
Notre Dame scored with ease from the start, whether it was their smooth transition game and repeated drives to the hoop, or quick putbacks off the offensive glass. Their talent and depth were simply too much for UNCW to handle.
Freshman forward Taya Reimer led Notre Dame with 12 rebounds, followed by Loyd with 11.
Junior guard Kelva Atkins, the Seahawks’ lone returning starter from last season, led the visitors with 16 points.
The Irish led 51-22 at the half.
The teams started the second half 4-4 over the first four minutes, but back-to-back layups by Loyd and freshman Lindsay Allen sparked a 12-0 run over the next 4:30 that removed any doubt.
McGraw said she would have like to have seen more scoring out of the post early on, one of the things she will focus on Sunday in preparation for Monday’s contest against No. 20 Michigan State.
“They are so talented,” she said of the Spartans. “This is maybe their best team ever. They’ve got great, athletic wings. They’re big. Their point guard is experienced and savvy. They’ve got a terrific game inside. They’re deep and really, really long. They can really guard.”
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame has a 24-game regular season winning streak and 12-game home winning streak, both dating back to last season (73-61 loss to Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012) … Notre Dame also improves to 77-14 (.846) in November games since 1995-96, including wins in 14 of their last 15 games in the month of November … the Fighting Irish have won 19 consecutive season openers and are 29-8 (.784) all-time in lidlifters, including a 24-3 (.889) mark in the 27-year tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw … Notre Dame’s 99 points were its highest total in a season opener since 2010-11, when it debuted with a 99-48 win over New Hampshire at Purcell Pavilion (also the last time the Fighting Irish had a larger margin of victory or allowed fewer points in a season opener than Saturday’s 49-point spread and 50 points allowed) … this was Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory at any time since Dec. 31, 2012, when it defeated Saint Francis (Pa.), 128-55, at Purcell Pavilion … the Fighting Irish shot .629 from the floor, their best field goal percentage since Jan. 17, 2012, when they connected at a .649 clip (48-of-74) in a 120-44 victory over Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion … this marked the first time Notre Dame shot better than 60 percent from the field in both halves of a game since that win over Saint Francis (Pa.) last New Year’s Eve … the Fighting Irish collected 54 rebounds, their highest total on the boards since Dec. 29, 2012, when they had 56 rebounds in a 74-47 win over 11th-ranked Purdue at Purcell Pavilion … the +30 rebounding margin was Notre Dame’s largest since March 24, 2013, when the Fighting Irish had a +35 margin (49-14) in a 97-64 win over Tennessee-Martin in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Championship at Iowa City, Iowa … Notre Dame is 57-7 (.891) against first-time opponents since the start of the 1995-96 season, with a 37-3 (.925) this century (since the start of the 2000-01 campaign) and an active 13-game winning streak (during which time the Fighting Irish have defeated new opponents by an average score of 96-47) … Notre Dame has won 29 consecutive home games against first-time opponents, a streak that dates back to the 1995-96 season … the Fighting Irish are 16-2 (.889) all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina, including a 6-0 record at home … in a strange series twist, this was Notre Dame’s first-ever win against a current Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) team, and its first game against a current CAA school since Dec. 29, 1988 (a 65-49 loss to James Madison at the Saint Joseph’s Invitational in Philadelphia) … sophomore guard Jewell Loyd registered her second career double-double and first since Jan. 8, 2013, when she had 18 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in a 75-71 overtime win at South Florida … Loyd also collected a career-best three blocks, one more than her previous mark against Alabama A&M on Dec. 19, 2012 … sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey scored a career-high 19 points on a career-best 7-of-13 field goals, one more in all categories than her previous highs against Saint Francis (Pa.) on Dec. 31, 2012 (she also had six assists, just missing her personal best of seven that was set in that Saint Francis game) … in addition, Mabrey made a career-high 4-for-5 free throws (latter tied, former broke marks set in the Saint Francis game), tied her career high with two steals (fourth time she’s done that, first since March 2, 2013, at Providence) and played a career-high 27 minutes (two more than her total against Massachusetts in last year’s home opener on Nov. 18, 2012) … sophomore guard Hannah Huffman set new career highs with four assists (previous was three at Marquette on Feb. 17, 2013) and 23 minutes played (previous was 19 vs. Mercer on Nov. 20, 2012), and tied her personal best with five rebounds (fifth time she’s done that, first since March 2, 2013, at Providence) … for the second consecutive season, a Notre Dame freshman opened her college career with a game-high 12 rebounds, with rookie forward Taya Reimer pulling off the feat this year after Loyd did likewise last year against No. 19/21 Ohio State in the Carrier Classic aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C. … Reimer’s 12 rebounds and Loyd’s 11 boards marked the first time Notre Dame had two double-figure rebounders in the same game since March 10, 2013, when current senior forwards Natalie Achonwa (20) and Ariel Braker (12) did so in a 75-66 win over South Florida in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. … freshman guard Lindsay Allen scored the first five points of the season for Notre Dame and finished with 11 points, becoming the 12th rookie in the McGraw era to score in double figures in her college debut, and the first since current junior forward Markisha Wright tallied 12 points in an 81-61 win over Akron on Nov. 11, 2011, in the first round of the Preseason WNIT at Purcell Pavilion … the Fighting Irish secured Big Macs for the entire crowd of 8,572 thanks to topping the 88-point mark for the second time in as many games this season, and the 44th time in the seven-year history of the promotion … freshman forward Kristina Nelson endeared herself to the Fighting Irish faithful by sinking her first career “Big Mac Basket” to lift Notre Dame over the magic 88-point threshold, courtesy of her putback layup with 4:27 to play.