Kayla McBride scored a game-high 18 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting (the fourth-best field goal percentage in school history), as Notre Dame defeated South Dakota State, 94-51 on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion. (File photo)

No. 2 Notre Dame Defeats South Dakota State, 94-51

Jan. 2, 2014

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)Kayla McBride got comfortable early and No. 2 Notre Dame jumped out fast.

The Irish led by double digits less than five minutes into their game against South Dakota State and hit 17 of their first 21 shots on the way to a 94-51 rout of the Jackrabbits on Thursday night.

McBride scored 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 on free throws, and also had four steals.

“My teammates were finding me in open areas and I was just hitting shots,” said McBride, who went 9 for 23 in Notre Dame’s last game, a 70-58 win at Oregon State. “It was definitely good to be home.”

Natalie Achonwa added 13 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high six assists for the Irish (12-0) and Jewell Loyd had 14 points in Notre Dame’s final nonconference matchup before making its Atlantic Coast Conference debut.

Gabby Boever scored nine points to lead the Jackrabbits (9-7), who were facing their highest-ranked opponent in program history.

The Irish used a 12-0 run to take a 19-4 lead on Taya Reimer’s layup five and a half minutes into the game. Madison Cable hit two 3-pointers during another 12-0 run that pushed the lead to 57-21 in the final minute of the first half.

McBride grabbed a steal and took it the other way for an easy layup less than five minutes into the second half, then watched the rest of the game from the bench soon after that.

Loyd’s layup with just under 15 minutes remaining made it 69-29, and Notre Dame’s largest lead was 45 points with 9:18 to play.

McBride knocked down both of her 3-point tries as well, but the rest of her stat line was less impressive to Irish coach Muffet McGraw.

“Didn’t get to the line and didn’t rebound and turned it over too much, but she did shoot it well,” McGraw said with a laugh.

South Dakota State came in with one win over a ranked team this season, an 83-79 upset of then-No. 12 Penn State on Dec. 11, but this one was over early.

Three Jackrabbits starters were on the bench less than four minutes into the game – Boever and Mariah Clarin with two fouls each, and Steph Paluch with a bloody nose. At that point, South Dakota State had more fouls (7) than points (4).

“We just got a little bit rattled early in the game,” said South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnson. “We gave up too many easy baskets and then they were off and going.”

The Irish took control quickly with a 20-2 run, and the Jackrabbits didn’t break double digits on the scoreboard until nearly 10 minutes had passed. By then, Notre Dame was already up by 23.

Cable finished with 13 points.

“I was really pleased with the tone that we set early on,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame scored a season-high 59 points in the first half on 20 of 41 shooting (63.4 percent) and amassed 20 of their 28 assists, mostly on backdoor cuts and extra passes in the paint.

“I thought we worked the backdoor really well tonight,” McGraw said. “I thought we got a lot of easy shots around the basket. (Loyd) and (McBride) in particular were getting easy shots.”

McBride, Loyd, Achonwa, and Cable all had double digits by the break.

The win, Notre Dame’s 35th straight regular season victory, kicked off a three-game homestand for the Irish, who make their ACC debut Sunday against Clemson.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame extends the third-best start in program history to 12-0 … the Fighting Irish have won 35 consecutive regular season games and 18 consecutive home games … since 2000-01, Notre Dame is 39-3 (.929) against first-time opponents, including an active 15-game winning streak during the past three seasons … the Fighting Irish also have won 30 consecutive home games against first-time opponents, a run that dates back to 1996 … Notre Dame was playing a team from South Dakota for just the third time ever and first since 1980 (pair of losses in home-and-home series with South Dakota) … the Fighting Irish improve to 8-2 (.800) all-time against the current Summit League membership, including a 6-1 (.857) record at home … Notre Dame has won 18 of its last 20 games to begin a new calendar year and is 29-8 (.784) all-time in such outings, including a 21-6 (.778) mark in the 27-year Muffet McGraw era … Notre Dame’s 59 first-half points were not only a season high, but also the eighth-most in one half in program history (fourth-most in the first half) … it was the most points in any half, and most points in the first half for the Fighting Irish since Dec. 31, 2012, when they scored 63 in the first and 65 in the second of a 128-55 win over Saint Francis (Pa.) at Purcell Pavilion … Thursday’s 35-point halftime margin also was a season high and largest since that Saint Francis game last New Year’s Eve, when Notre Dame led the Red Flash by 38 points (63-25) … the Fighting Irish had at least four double-figure scorers for the ninth time this season (9-0 record) and are 84-5 (.944) in such games since 2009-10, including wins in 54 of their last 55 contests … Notre Dame registered its fourth 40-point win of the season (plus a fifth decided by 39 points) … the Fighting Irish topped the 90-point mark for the seventh time this year, and exceeded 80 points for the ninth time (194-6, .970, since 1995-96, and 71-2, .973, since 2009-10 when reaching the latter total) … Notre Dame held its opponent to fewer than 60 points for the sixth time this year (284-15, .950, since 1995-96 when pulling that off) … the Fighting Irish led at the half for the 11th time this year (289-19, .938, since 2000-01, and 126-2, .984, since 2009-10 when leading at the break) … Notre Dame made 20 of its first 25 shots in the game (during the opening 14 minutes) and wound up shooting better than 50 percent from the floor for the seventh time this year, including the fourth time in the past five games … the Fighting Irish tied their season high with eight blocked shots … Notre Dame posted a rebounding margin of +20 or better for the fifth time this year … the Fighting Irish grabbed at least 50 rebounds in a game for the fourth time this season … Notre Dame dished out at least 21 assists for the 10th time this year … the Fighting Irish reserves scored at least 30 points in a game for the eighth time this year … this marked the first time no Notre Dame opposing player scored in double figures in a game since Nov. 18, 2012, when Massachusetts had four players with a team-high eight points in a 94-50 Fighting Irish win at Purcell Pavilion … senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride went a perfect 8-for-8 from the field, tying for the fourth-best single-game field goal percentage in program history and best since Dec. 30, 2011, when Skylar Diggins went 8-for-8 at Mercer (school record is 12-for-12 by Karen Robinson at Saint Louis on Jan. 14, 1989) … McBride’s effort also tied for the third-best single-game outing by a Fighting Irish player in arena history, and best since Dec. 11, 2004, when Crystal Erwin went a record-tying 9-for-9 against Washington (Sandy Botham also went 9-for-9 against Evansville on Feb. 28, 1986) … McBride moved into 17th place on Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list with 1,389 points, passing Shari Matvey (1,373 from 1979-83) … senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa posted her third double-double of the season, led by a season-high 13 rebounds and career-high six assists — it also was her 23rd career double-double, tying her for ninth in school history with former teammate Devereaux Peters (2007-12) … junior guard Madison Cable logged her second double-figure scoring game of the season and fifth of her career … sophomore guard Hannah Huffman tied her career high with five rebounds … freshman forward Kristina Nelson’s layup with 2:31 remaining gave Notre Dame 88 points and earned the Purcell Pavilion crowd coupons for a free Big Mac at South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants — it was the second “Big Mac Basket” of Nelson’s career and the seventh this season (all of the team’s regular season home games to date except for Nov. 11 win over No. 19/18 Michigan State, plus Oct. 30 exhibition win over California-Pa.) … Notre Dame drew a season-high crowd of 8,867 fans to Thursday night’s game, its 40th consecutive home game with at least 8,000 fans.