Skylar Diggins (AP)

No. 3 Notre Dame Cruises Past Seton Hall, 74-36

Jan. 4, 2012

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (AP) – Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride each scored 14 points and the third-ranked Irish cruised to a 74-36 win over Seton Hall on Wednesday night for their 11th straight victory.

“We kept our focus, for this has been a tough place for us to play in years past,” McGraw said. “I thought we didn’t look ahead to this weekend. We did some pretty good things defensively especially with the starters.”

The Irish will host No. 2 UConn on Saturday in a nationally televised game. Notre Dame eliminated the Huskies in the Final Four last season and was picked in the preseason coaches’ poll to win the BIG EAST for the first time since 2001.

The two teams will play again in Connecticut to close out the regular season on Feb. 27.

“We’re excited for this weekend. It’s a big rivalry and a great game between us. We’ll be ready,” said Notre Dame senior Brittany Mallory.

Notre Dame (14-1, 2-0 BIG EAST) has been sizzling on offense and leads the nation in scoring. The Irish came in averaging over 100 points in their previous four games, including a 128-42 thrashing of Mercer on Dec. 30.

Notre Dame kept it up against the Pirates (7-9, 0-2).

The Irish closed the first half with a 36-9 run, with their three stars — Diggins, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters — combining for 22 points during the burst.

Notre Dame led 49-16 at the break and its lead grew as large as 44 points in the second half. With her team building its huge lead, McGraw rested Diggins, Novosel and Peters for most of the second half. Novosel finished with 13 points, and Peters had eight points and 10 rebounds.

“I’ve been trying to give them longer stretches without subbing,” said McGraw of limiting her starters’ minutes. “I’m trying to get them through a couple of timeouts just to get that game shape conditioning. They haven’t played a lot of minutes since Kentucky. I want them to play more. It’s hard to figure that balance.”

The Seton Hall women were hoping to pull off their own shocker one night after the men’s team stunned No. 8 Connecticut 75-63 — but it wasn’t meant to be. The Pirates have now lost 20 of their 24 meetings with the Irish, including the last six. They were outrebounded 41-18 and shot 28 percent from the field.

Jasmine Crew provided the sole bright spot on offense for the Pirates, finishing with 17 points. She had all nine during Notre Dame’s huge run to end the opening half, including two incredible acrobatic shots.

“That’s the demise of this team right now, we have consistently Jasmine stepping up, but haven’t had consistent play from other players,” Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan said. “Credit Notre Dame, they played physical, took a lot of our kids out of their game.”

Former New York Liberty president Carol Blazejowski and WNBA chief of basketball operations and player relations Renee Brown were at the game.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is off to a 14-1 start or better for the fourth time in school history, and the third time in four years (15-0 in 2000-01, 14-1 in 2008-09, 15-0 in 2009-10, 14-1 in 2011-12) … the Fighting Irish 11-game winning streak is their longest since opening the 2009-10 campaign on a 15-game run … for the 10th time this season, Notre Dame held its opponent to fewer than 50 points, with this marking the sixth time the Fighting Irish have held a team to fewer than 40 points (including three of the past four and four of six) … Notre Dame also has held its opponent to 23 points or fewer in 15 of its last 19 halves of basketball, dating back to the second half against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 in Freeport, Bahamas … the Fighting Irish had at least three double-figure scorers for the 13th time this year … Notre Dame registered its eighth 30-point win of the season, and fourth in a row … for the seventh time this year (all in the past nine games), the Fighting Irish held their opponent to a sub-.300 field goal percentage … Notre Dame grabbed at least 40 rebounds for the seventh consecutive game and eighth time this year after not reaching that total in its first six outings … conversely, Seton Hall tied a Fighting Irish opponent season low with 18 rebounds, set by Mercer on Dec. 30, and set a new opponent low this year with five offensive boards (previous was six by Indiana State on Nov. 13 at Purcell Pavilion) … for the 10th time this season, the Fighting Irish jumped out to a 20-point lead in the opening 13 minutes of the game, going on to win those 10 contests by an average of 50.2 points per game … Notre Dame improves to 15-2 (.882) in its first game of a new calendar year since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, including wins in eight of the past nine seasons … the Fighting Irish rise to 20-4 (.833) all-time against Seton Hall, with an active six-game series win streak … Notre Dame also moves to 10-2 (.833) all-time at Walsh Gymnasium, where it has won its last four games … Wednesday’s margin was just two points shy of the largest victory for the Fighting Irish at Walsh Gymnasium, trailing only matching 87-47 Notre Dame wins on Jan. 2, 1997, and Jan. 20, 1999 … the Fighting Irish have held the Pirates to 61 points or fewer in 20 of the past 21 series games … senior guard Natalie Novosel scored in double figures for the 22nd consecutive game, tying Ruth Riley (Dec. 3, 2000-Feb. 27, 2001) and Sandy Botham (Dec. 4, 1987-Feb. 25, 1988) for the third-longest streak in school history … Novosel jumped up to 20th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,212 points, passing Heidi Bunek, who had 1,202 points from 1985-89 … junior guard Skylar Diggins moved into a tie for 15th place on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring ladder with Margaret Nowlin (1988-92) with 1,312 points … fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters has recorded double-digit rebounds in five of the past seven games and just missed her fourth double-double in the past six outings.