Feb. 2, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Cincinnati had no chance once Kayla McBride found her rhythm, and she found it fast.
McBride broke out of a shooting slump by making her first seven shots and scoring 17 of her 19 points in the first half as second-ranked Notre Dame jumped to an early 23-point lead and beat Cincinnati 64-42 on Saturday for their 15th straight win. McBride hit a mid-range jumper a minute in and then started scoring in bunches.
“I think a lot of it has to do with my shot selection,” McBride said. “I was just open and I was just hitting shots today.”
McBride had made just 4 of 18 shots against Tennessee on Monday and missed all five shots the previous game against Providence. She said she watched a lot of film during the week and thought she needed to do a better job of choosing her shots, saying she tried to do too much against the Volunteers after missing some shots.
“Because you want to get that back. But sometimes it makes it worse,” she said. “I think today was a lot better and a lot more calm.”
McBride twice made three straight baskets for the Irish (20-1, 8-0 Big East). The first time came as the Bearcats missed their first nine shots, falling behind 10-0 when McBride scored on a rebound and then hit a 17-foot jumper.
Lesha Dunn finally ended Cincinnati’s scoreless streak with a jumper, but McBride answered quickly with a backdoor layup on a pass from Skylar Diggins. After the Bearcats cut the lead to 14-8 on a pair of free throws by Dayeesha Hollins, McBride hit three straight jumpers to spark a 17-2 run. McBride capped the run with a 3-pointer that gave the Irish a 31-10 lead.
“It’s probably one of the better individual performances I’ve seen this season long in the Big East,” Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott said.
McBride said hitting the first shot helped her confidence.
“It’s a momentum thing,” she said. “It gives you energy and intensity for the rest of the things.”
Kayla Cook led the Bearcats (8-13, 0-8) with 12 points. Hollins, the Bearcats leading scorer at 15.4 points game, was held to a season-low six points.
“I thought she had some makeable shots,” Elliott said. “I thought she got to the rim a couple of times and missed some easy bunnies.”
Hollins said she just struggled to make shots, going 2 for 9 from the field.
“I couldn’t hit it,” she said.
Kaila Turner, who didn’t attempt a shot in the first half, was 4-of-5 shooting in the second half with three 3-pointers to add 11 points for the Irish.
“I was really just focusing on defense and my teammates found me and I was open,” Turner said. “I try to knock them down when I can.”
The Bearcats opened the second half on an 8-2 run, cutting the lead to 39-23 on a baseline jumper by Dunn. But Turner hit a 3-pointer to get the Irish going again, sparking a 14-0 run. The Irish scored the last six from the free throw line. Cincinnati used a 12-2 run to close to 55-35 on a basket inside by Hollins with 4:10 left. But the Bearcats couldn’t get any closer.
The victory also was the 699th career win in 31 seasons for coach Muffet McGraw, 26 coaching Notre Dame. McGraw played down the importance of her next win being No. 700, saying it’s not that impressive.
“Not when you see Pat Summitt win a thousand. It seems like a pretty small number to me,” she said.
Yet she admitted she’ll be nervous when the Irish play Tuesday at Villanova. She grew up in the Philadelphia area and went to college at Saint Joseph’s. She said she will have 40 to 50 people at the game, including former college teammates, as she always does.
“So it’s a very stressful game for me because of all the people,” she said. “So I’m going to try to not think of that part of it and just focus on trying to win the game.”
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame reaches the 20-win mark for the seventh consecutive season and 19th time in the past 20 seasons, as well as the 23rd time in head coach Muffet McGraw’s 26-year tenure under the Golden Dome (McGraw has 25 career 20-win seasons, adding in two from her previous stop at Lehigh from 1982-87, making her the ninth NCAA Division I coach, and seventh active skipper, with 25 seasons of 20-plus victories) … the Fighting Irish extend their current winning streak to 15 games, tying the fifth-longest string in school history (done also in 1990-91 and 2009-10), and marking the third time in four seasons Notre Dame has put together a 15-game winning streak (after doing it three times in the program’s first 32 seasons combined) … Notre Dame’s 20-1 record matches the second-best 21-game mark in school history (also 2009-10 and 2011-12) … the Fighting Irish reach the midpoint of the BIG EAST season with an 8-0 record for the fifth time since joining the conference in 1995-96 (and the second consecutive season) … Notre Dame continues its superb play in the month of February, improving to 100-28 (.781) in February games since joining the BIG EAST 18 seasons ago, including a 57-6 (.905) record at home — in the McGraw era, the Fighting Irish are 148-43 (.775) in the month of February, with a 79-12 (.868) home record … Notre Dame improves to 9-0 all-time against Cincinnati, with the Bearcats remaining one of two current BIG EAST schools the Fighting Irish have never lost to (the other is Providence at 21-0) … the Fighting Irish have won their last six games against Cincinnati by an average of 21.7 points per game and have not allowed more than 50 points in any of those six outings … Saturday’s 42 points were the second-fewest allowed by Notre Dame in its nine-game series with UC, exceeded only by a 73-41 victory exactly five years ago (Feb. 2, 2008) in Cincinnati … the Bearcats’ 15 first-half points tied for the fewest allowed by the Fighting Irish in BIG EAST play (they also gave up 15 in the opening 20 minutes of their 89-44 home win over Providence on Jan. 26), and were the second-fewest by a Notre Dame opponent in any half this season (12 in first half by Mercer on Nov. 20 at Purcell Pavilion) … the Fighting Irish scored 64 points, their third-lowest output of the season and lowest since their only loss of the year (73-61 at home to third-ranked Baylor on Dec. 5) … McBride’s 19 points were two off her career high set back on Jan. 5 in a 73-72 win at No. 1 Connecticut … Turner tied her season highs with 11 points and three three-pointers (she did both on Dec. 20 against Kansas State at the World Vision Classic in Las Vegas, and also had three triples on Jan. 26 at home against Providence) … Diggins chalked up seven assists in a game for the seventh time this season … McGraw earned her 699th career win, improving to 699-257 (.731) in 31 seasons as a collegiate coach, including a 611-216 (.739) mark since coming to Notre Dame in 1987-88 … McGraw is on the verge of becoming the 13th NCAA Division I coach to reach 700 career wins, and if she leads Notre Dame to that victory in the next nine games, she would be the eighth-fastest Division I coach to 700 victories, reaching the milestone quicker than such notables at North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell (966 games), Ohio State’s Jim Foster (973 games), former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan (998 games) and two now-deceased Hall of Fame coaches — Sue Gunter (1,004 games, most notably at LSU) and Kay Yow (1,021 games, mainly at North Carolina State) … speaking of Kay Yow, part of the proceeds from Saturday’s fifth annual Notre Dame Pink Zone/Play4Kay game will go to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund (as well as locally to the Foundation for St. Joseph Regional Medical Center), with the Fighting Irish now 4-1 all-time in Pink Zone games and having raised nearly $600,000 for breast cancer research (this year’s final donation total is pending) … Notre Dame set a school record with its ninth sellout of the season (and seventh in a row), breaking last year’s mark of eight sellouts — the Fighting Irish also have had sellouts in nine of 11 home games this year and now are averaging 9,003 fans per game (98.4 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s capacity of 9,149).