PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) –Despite not feeling well, Natalie Achonwa provided a big lift for Notre Dame.
Achonwa scored a career-high 13 points off the bench and the No. 18 Irish routed Providence, 79-43 on Wednesday in the BIG EAST opener for both teams.
“She didn’t even come to practice and couldn’t keep any food down,” coach Muffet McGraw said. “She had a rough night. But she said I’ll play if you need me and I’m a little weak.
“She played great. I was really pleased, but I don’t think she could have gone too many more minutes.”
Achonwa only played nine minutes but was 5 for 6 from the floor and 3 of 4 from the free throw line.
Mi-Khida Hankins scored 16 points for the Friars (5-6), who were held to 16 points in the second half.
Notre Dame (7-3) broke the game open when it went on a 16-0 run in the second half, during which the Irish held Providence without a point for 9:11.
The Irish forced the Friars into seven of their 28 turnovers during that run.
“I thought our press was good,” McGraw said. “I thought we came out and put a little pressure on them.
“I also thought Devereaux Peters missing most of the first half (because of foul trouble) was a problem for us. But Erica Solomon (11 points, 10 rebounds) had a great game off the bench. She gave us great energy. She gave us rebounding.”
Notre Dame also made a defensive adjustment in the half court that made a difference.
“We switched up defensively,” McGraw said. “We didn’t front as much. I thought they were getting inside a little bit more so we played behind in the post.
“I thought that stopped them a little bit.”
Notre Dame led 35-27 at halftime and after the Friars cut their deficit to seven points (40-33), Natalie Novosel ignited the Irish’s 16-0 run.
The Irish are 19-0 all time against Providence, their longest active winning streak against any BIG EAST opponent.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame now has won 10 of its last 12 BIG EAST Conference openers and is 12-4 (.750) in league lidlifters since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96 … this was the eighth time in 10 seasons that the Fighting Irish tipped off conference play on the road, with Notre Dame posting a 6-3 (.667) record in BIG EAST openers away from home since joining the conference 16 seasons ago … Wednesday’s game marked the earliest BIG EAST opener for Notre Dame since Dec. 6, 2000, when the Fighting Irish defeated Villanova, 64-33 at Purcell Pavilion … the 36-point margin of victory was Notre Dame’s largest in a conference opener during both its BIG EAST membership and the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present); in fact, the last time the Fighting Irish won a league opener by more than Wednesday’s margin was Dec. 13, 1985, when Notre Dame earned a 90-46 win at Marquette to tip off that year’s play in the now-defunct North Star Conference (almost exactly 25 years ago and two seasons before McGraw took the head coaching reins at Notre Dame) … the Fighting Irish improve to 19-0 all-time against Providence, winning by double digits for the 16th time in the series … the 36-point spread was the largest for Notre Dame over the Friars since Jan. 30, 1999 (a 97-59 win at Providence) … the 43 points allowed were the second-fewest by the Fighting Irish defense in the 19-game series, topped only on Jan. 19, 2002, with a 69-41 Notre Dame win at Alumni Hall … the Fighting Irish are 7-0 this season when leading at the half and have 32 in a row when holding the upper hand at the break (195-17 record since start of 2000-01 season) … Notre Dame is 6-0 this season when it holds its opponent to fewer than 60 points (214-15 record since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96) … the Fighting Irish came into Wednesday’s game leading the nation in steals at 16.1 per game and finished right on their average with 16 thefts at Providence … Notre Dame forced the Friars into 28 turnovers, the sixth time this season the Fighting Irish have caused at least 25 opponent turnovers in a game … the Fighting Irish continue to display strong three-point defense during the early part of the season, holding Providence to 1-for-8 (.125) from beyond the arc, and lowering their opponents’ season three-point percentage to .226 (35-for-155) … Notre Dame held Providence to just 16 second-half points — in 20 full halves of basketball this season (not counting the two overtime periods vs. UCLA on Nov. 18), the Fighting Irish have held their opponent to fewer than 20 points five times (one-quarter of their total halves of basketball played to date) … Notre Dame was charged with just 10 turnovers, one shy of their season-best performance set on Nov. 26 against IUPUI at Purcell Pavilion … junior forward Erica Solomon recorded her second career double-double, with both coming in the past six games (12 points, 12 rebounds vs. IUPUI) … Solomon also notched a career-high five steals (previous high was three on three occasions, the last on Nov. 27 against Wake Forest at Purcell Pavilion) and tied her personal best with three assists (last achieved on Nov. 15 against Morehead State at Purcell Pavilion) … three days after scoring a season (and career) high 12 points against Purdue, freshman forward Natalie Achonwa did one better at Providence with a team-high 13 points in just nine minutes; Achonwa is the second Fighting Irish player this season to register a “point-a-minute” performance (min. 10 points scored), after Devereaux Peters had a career-high 23 points in 16 minutes against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 in the season opener at Purcell Pavilion … speaking of Peters, the senior forward tied her career high with four assists, a mark she first set in the Nov. 18 home game against UCLA.