Dec. 20, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Coming off a high-intensity win against Kentucky in its last game, Notre Dame picked up right where it left off.
Skylar Diggins scored 14 points to lead a balanced offense as the third-ranked Fighting Irish cruised to a 90-38 victory over UCF on Tuesday night. Notre Dame had 18 steals while forcing 25 turnovers.
“I was really pleased with the way we came out, with the intensity,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “Coming off a big win over Kentucky (on Sunday), I worried about being a little complacent, and we came out and played hard. I was really, really happy, pretty much throughout the game.”
The Irish, who reached 90 points for the fifth time this season, shot 52 percent from the field and finished with a 46-28 rebounding advantage.
Aisha Patrick had 10 points to lead the Knights (5-6), who shot just 28 percent from the field.
Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory, who added seven points and added three assists, said her team’s depth showed against Central Florida.
“Everybody’s learning from each other and growing and keeping the energy coming off the bench,” Mallory said. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”
Notre Dame’s pressure defense forced Central Florida into 25 turnovers, 18 of which were steals.
The Irish led 51-16 at the break, their biggest lead of the opening 20 minutes. It was the fourth time this season they scored at least 50 in the first half.
Notre Dame continued to stretch the lead, going ahead by 52 midway through the second half and again with 1:16 left.
The Irish’s defensive intensity was something Central Florida couldn’t really prepare for, according to Knights coach Joi Williams.
“It’s very tough,” Williams said. “You can’t really simulate that. You have a team of practice players and this time of year everybody’s going home for Christmas so it’s tough to get that.”
Notre Dame’s advantage in rebounding was evident on the offensive end with 22 offensive rebounds. Achonwa led the Irish with eight rebounds and credited her time spent trying to learn from Peters on how to better position herself for rebounds.
“I’ve been trying to implement that in practice a little bit more and trying to get after the rebounds in practice so that it just comes in the game,” Achonwa said.
The Irish started pulling away from the start and led 31-5 after nine minutes. The Knights didn’t reach double digit points until they pulled to 41-11 with 5:49 remaining in the half.
The Knights committed 17 turnovers in the first half, 12 of which were steals by Notre Dame.
Williams called the Irish’s ability to rebound on the offensive end “unbelievable.”
“One thing that we talked about coming in was really giving them one opportunity and you can’t give a great team like that more than one because they’ll make you pay,” Williams said.
The Irish scored 21 points on second-chance attempts.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame tops the 90-point mark for the fifth time this season, and the third time in four games … the Fighting Irish hold their opponent to fewer than 40 points for the fourth time this year, and below 50 points for the seventh time … Notre Dame earns its fourth 50-point win of the season, and seventh by at least 25 points … the Fighting Irish scored at least 50 points in the first half for the fourth time this season, and held its opponent to 23 points or fewer in a half for the 12th time this year after UCF failed to reach that total in either half on Tuesday night … UCF shot an opponent season-low .083 from the three-point line and tied an opponent season-low with one made three-pointer, and that triple came courtesy of Ashia Kelly with 1:56 left in the game … Notre Dame matched its season high with six players in double figures, a feat they first pulled off against Indiana State on Nov. 13; the Fighting Irish are 40-4 (.909) in the past three seasons when they have at least four players score in double figures … Notre Dame forced at least 20 turnovers and logged double-digit steals for the ninth time this season … the Fighting Irish recorded their seventh game with at least 20 assists … Notre Dame grabbed a season-high 22 offensive rebounds and topped the 40-rebound mark for the fourth consecutive game, and fifth time in the past six outings … the Fighting Irish stretch their winning streak in the final game before Christmas to 16 consecutive games and move to 26-9 (.743) all-time in their last contest before the holiday break … Notre Dame is 4-0 this season when playing its second game in a 48-hour span, and 20-7 (.741) in such outings during the past four years … the Fighting Irish move to 3-0 all-time against UCF, notching the largest margin of victory, most points scored and fewest points allowed in the abbreviated series with the Knights … Notre Dame is 9-2 (.818) all-time against the current Conference USA membership, with a 4-0 record at Purcell Pavilion (UCF was the first C-USA school to visit South Bend since Dec. 31, 2000, when the Fighting Irish defeated Rice, 80-40) … Notre Dame moves to 25-5 (.833) all-time against Florida schools, including a 12-3 (.800) record at Purcell Pavilion … junior guard Kaila Turner scored a career-high 13 points, besting her previous high of 11 points vs. Charlotte on Dec. 20, 2009 (it was Turner’s third career double-figure scoring game) … Turner also tied her career high with three three-pointers, a mark she first set on Feb. 26, 2011, vs. Cincinnati … Turner added season highs of three steals and 27 minutes played … sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa collected a season-best eight rebounds and scored in double digits for the fourth time in five games … sophomore forward Ariel Braker tied her career high with four steals, having first set that standard on Nov. 12, 2010, vs. New Hampshire … Braker also snared a season-best seven rebounds, one off her career high set on Jan. 2, 2011, vs. Southeast Missouri State … senior guard Natalie Novosel extended her streak of consecutive double-figure scoring games to 19 in a row, the longest such run by a Fighting Irish player since Ruth Riley had 22 consecutive double-digit games from Dec. 3, 2000-Feb. 27, 2001 … for the fifth time this season (and third consecutive home game), Notre Dame sent the Purcell Pavilion faithful home happy with coupons for a free Big Mac after reaching the 88-point level — Braker picked up her second Big Mac basket of the season by converting a pair of free throws with 1:16 to play.