Jan. 20, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Written neatly on the toe of Skylar Diggins’ left shoe is the word “NEXT,” and on her right shoe, “PLAY.”
After scoring 18 points Sunday in a 74-50 rout of St. John’s, No. 2 Notre Dame’s All-American point guard was asked to explain the writing.
“I’m working on my mental focus, managing my frustration,” said Diggins, who can sometimes be seen with a bewildered scowl after being whistled for fouls. “It helps me move on to the next play. Sometimes I get caught up and let the last couple plays drag instead of moving on to the next play.”
Diggins apparently handled that objective with ease Sunday. She penetrated at will. When she wasn’t scoring on fast breaks, she was hitting pull-up jumpers or feeding forward Natalie Achonwa for easy layups.
Achonwa had 16 points and 12 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season for Notre Dame (16-1, 5-0). She scored eight of Notre Dame’s first 12 points, all on layups.
“We’re gelling and I think we just know where each other are on the court,” Achonwa said. “Skylar sees everyone on the court, even if you’re behind her, she still knows you’re behind her.”
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the pair make a tough combination.
“That really makes us hard to guard,” McGraw said. “If you think about trying to double-team inside on Natalie, you have to worry about the shooters on the perimeter. You can’t really zone us when we shoot that well, you have to play man-to-man, and we like our man-to-man offense.”
St. John’s (9-7, 3-1) was led by Nadirah McKenith with 15 points.
“They have so many weapons, you’re trying to limit what you can,” Red Storm coach Joe Tartamella said. “Achonwa really set the tone early from a rebounding standpoint, asserting herself in the paint. I thought it took us too long to adjust to what she was doing. Both of them really gave them the spark they needed early to try and give us that initial punch.”
The Fighting Irish took a 39-25 halftime lead on a drive through traffic by Diggins as the clock expired. Notre Dame outrebounded St. John’s 48-22 and outscored the Red Storm 38-24 in the paint.
Notre Dame started the second half cold, going scoreless until Achonwa hit a jumper in the lane with 16 minutes left to play. But St. John’s was unable to capitalize, scoring two points during that span.
Madison Cable came off the bench for Notre Dame and was 3-for-3 from three-point range in the second half, when the game was in hand for the Irish, giving her 13 points and tying her career high. As a team, the Irish hit 7-of-11 from 3-point range.
Attendance was 9,149, giving the Irish their seventh sellout of their first nine home games. That’s one shy of their season record, set last season.
Notre Dame senior reserve Kaila Turner left the game with a knee injury with 5:32 left to play in the game, falling to the ground and writhing in agony after she hit a 3-pointer. She was expected to have an MRI Monday morning.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame’s 11-game winning streak ties for the seventh-longest in school history and marks the third time in four seasons the Fighting Irish have had a string of at least 11 consecutive wins … Notre Dame is 16-1 through its first 17 games for the third time in four years and the fourth time in program history (17-0 in 2000-01; 16-1 in 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2012-13) … the Fighting Irish are off to a 5-0 start in BIG EAST Conference play for the second consecutive season and sixth time in school history … Notre Dame improves to 22-3 all-time against St. John’s, including an 11-0 record at Purcell Pavilion — the Fighting Irish also have won the last four games in the series … Notre Dame scored at least 66 points against St. John’s for 22nd time in 25 series meetings, posting a 21-1 record in those games … the Fighting Irish are 54-5 (.915) all-time against teams from the state of New York, including a 28-0 record at home … Notre Dame registered a season-best .636 (7-of-11) three-point percentage, its highest percentage from beyond the arc (minimum five attempts) since Nov. 23, 2008, when it connected at an .875 clip (7-of-8) in a 102-54 win at Boston College … Notre Dame’s seven three-pointers also tied a season high first set on Dec. 20 against Kansas State at the World Vision Classic in Las Vegas … the Fighting Irish posted a rebound margin of +20 or better for the sixth time this season (season high is +29 against Utah State on Dec. 8 at Purcell Pavilion) … Notre Dame shot below 70 percent from the foul line for only the second time all season, having gone a season-low 7-of-11 (.636) at the stripe on Dec. 5 against third-ranked Baylor … junior forward Natalie Achonwa picked up her BIG EAST-leading 10th double-double of the season (third in conference play) … senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins scored in double figures for the 102nd time in her career, taking sole possession of third place on the Fighting Irish all-time list (101 by Katryna Gaither from 1993-97 and Jacqueline Batteast from 2001-05) … Diggins chalked up her second consecutive “5-5-5” game and third in four games, as well as her team-leading sixth of the season and 35th of her career … Diggins also started for the 124th time in her career, tying for second place in school history with Ruth Riley (1997-2001) and Lindsay Schrader (2005-10) behind only Alicia Ratay (129 from 1999-2003) … sophomore guard Madison Cable tied her career high with 13 points, a mark she first set on Dec. 19 against Alabama A&M in the opening round of the World Vision Classic in Las Vegas … Cable’s 3-for-3 performance from the three-point line was the best by a Notre Dame player (minimum two attempts) since March 5, 2012, when Natalie Novosel went 4-for-4 from distance in a 73-45 win over West Virginia in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. … Notre Dame welcomed a sellout crowd (9,149) for the fifth consecutive home game, as well as the seventh time in nine home games this season, putting the Fighting Irish just one off last year’s record for sellouts in a season … Notre Dame now has 32 sellouts in program history, including 26 in the past four seasons alone (2009-10 to present) … Sunday’s sellout also helped the Fighting Irish boost their season attendance average to 8,971 fans per game, more than 98 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s capacity.