Jan. 13, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) – Call it a glimpse of the future: Notre Dame women’s basketball in the post- Skylar Diggins era.
While Coach Muffet McGraw surely will miss her All-American senior point guard next year, she can take solace in the promise shown Sunday by freshman guard Jewell Loyd in a 71-46 win over Rutgers.
Diggins scored 15 points to lead No. 2 Notre Dame, despite playing limited minutes. McGraw benched her with 8:55 left in the first half after Diggins was whistled with a technical foul after jumping up and down in protest of a foul called against her.
“With Skylar on the bench, we were able to maintain and build on our lead, and that’s really important for us. I thought Jewell stepped up during that time,” McGraw said.
Loyd, playing in only her third BIG EAST game, finished with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, and she was 2-of-2 from 3-point range.
“I knew we had to stay composed,” Loyd said. “We couldn’t freak out. I think we just stayed within the offense. We knew we had to get it going somehow but we weren’t scared of anything, really.”
Rutgers managed only one basket during Diggins’ rest.
“I thought (Notre Dame’s defense) did a great job, but we’re just poor, we really are,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “Diggins, for her to go out like that and we couldn’t score. We didn’t do very well. We didn’t make good decisions.”
The Irish (14-1, 3-0) won their sixth conference home opener in the past seven seasons, and picked up their ninth consecutive win, coming off a 75-71 overtime victory at South Florida Tuesday night.
Erica Wheeler scored 17 points to lead Rutgers (9-7, 0-3), which is off to its worst start ever in the Big East since joining the conference in 1995.
The Irish built much of their lead with three big spurts, two of them in the first half. First came a 13-4 run over a roughly four-minute span midway through the half, in which they stretched their lead to 21-10. The spurt included 3’s by Diggins and Loyd, and a 3-point play by Diggins after she was fouled on a fastbreak layup.
Notre Dame closed the final 3:34 of the first half on a 9-1 run, thanks to two jumpers and a layup by Loyd. That run stretched their lead to 20, giving them a 37-17 lead at the break. Notre Dame then opened the second half with an 11-3 run over the first 4:14.
Rutgers was unable to take advantage of Diggins’ down time in the first half, hitting only one field goal over that time. The Irish, on the other hand, did capitalize on frequent fouls committed by Rutgers.
Monique Oliver, Copper and Chelsey Lee each picked up two fouls within the first six minutes of the game for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights committed 11 fouls in the first half, and the Irish hit all nine free throws in the half.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is off to a 14-1 start for the fourth time in five seasons, and the fifth time in school history (2000-01, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13) … the Fighting Irish earned their eighth 25-point win of the season … RU’s 17 first-half points were the second-fewest allowed by Notre Dame this season (12 by Mercer on Nov. 20 at Purcell Pavilion), while the Fighting Irish rolled to a 20-point halftime lead for the sixth time this year, and first since Dec. 31, when they held a 63-25 edge over Saint Francis (Pa.) going into the locker room at Purcell Pavilion … Notre Dame picks up its fourth consecutive win over Rutgers, extending its longest winning streak in the series, which is now tied 13-13 since the two schools joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96 (RU won the first three matchups in the mid-1980s and leads 16-13 in the overall series) … Sunday’s margin was the third-largest for Notre Dame in the series, topped only by last year’s 71-41 win in Piscataway and an 86-58 victory on March 2, 1997, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Storrs, Conn. … the Fighting Irish have held the Scarlet Knights to fewer than 50 points in the past three series meetings after doing so only twice in the first 26 series games (1982-2010) … Notre Dame has taken over the aggregate scoring lead in the series with Rutgers, having amassed 1,847 points in 29 career games, while the Scarlet Knights have tallied 1,825 points in that span … the Fighting Irish are 13-5 (.722) in BIG EAST home openers, including wins in six of the past seven seasons … Notre Dame had five players score in double figures and is 12-0 this season, 64-4 (.941) in the past four years when it has at least four players reach double digits, including an active 34-game winning streak … the Fighting Irish, who came into the game ranked second in the nation in free throw percentage, connected at a season-best .933 (14-of-15) clip from the foul line … Notre Dame shot better than 50 percent from the field for the seventh time this season, first since a season-high .618 mark on Dec. 31 against Saint Francis (Pa.) … with Sunday’s result, Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw moved into a tie for 13th place on the NCAA Division I all-time coaching wins list with 693 victories, matching the total by Rene Portland from 1976-2007 at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.), Colorado and Penn State (Portland coached McGraw during the latter’s final two college seasons at Saint Joseph’s in 1976-77 and 1977-78) … McGraw also coached 950th career game, raising her 31-year record to 693-257 (.729), including a 605-216 (.737) mark in 26 seasons at Notre Dame … what’s more, McGraw collected her 300th win at Purcell Pavilion, now owning a 300-56 (.843) home record since coming to Notre Dame in 1987-88 … senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins registered the 100th double-figure scoring game of her career, becoming the fifth player in program history to reach that milestone, and moving to within one of both Katryna Gaither (1993-97) and Jacqueline Batteast (2001-05) for third on the Notre Dame career double-digit scoring games list … junior forward Ariel Braker scored in double figures for the sixth time this season after having two double-digit games in her first two years combined … how rare were the technical fouls called on the Fighting Irish today? Not only did both Diggins and junior guard Kayla McBride pick up the first of their respective careers, but Notre Dame had not had a player called for a technical since Feb. 5, 2011 (Natalie Achonwa at South Florida), and as a team, the Fighting Irish have not been called for more than two technicals in an entire season since 2006-07 (3), and had just three combined since the start of the 2009-10 season … this also was the first time Notre Dame was called for multiple technicals in the same game since Feb. 17, 1981, when former Fighting Irish head coach Mary DiStanislao was ejected after picking up three T’s in an 84-64 loss at Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) … the Fighting Irish are 13-0 this season when leading at the half, as well as a 260-19 (.932) record since the start of the 2000-01 season and a 97-2 (.980) mark in the past four seasons … Notree Dame is 8-0 this season when holding opponents to fewer than 60 points, as well as 266-15 (.947) in such games dating back to its entry in the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96 … Achonwa grabbed her 500th career rebound on Sunday … Notre Dame welcomes its fifth sellout crowd in seven home games this season, boosting its season attendance average to 8,920 fans per game (better than 97 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s capacity of 9,149).