Dec. 8, 2012
It was that kind of day for No. 5 Notre Dame.
Achonwa tied a career high with 23 points and also had 12 rebounds to help the Fighting Irish rout Utah State 109-70 on Saturday.
Wright added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Diggins finished with 12 points along with 10 assists. It was the first time in seven years that three Irish women recorded double-doubles.
Achonwa credited Diggins’ ability to break the Utah State press for many of her easy baskets.
“I think we have a point guard that wants to push the tempo, and we play in a program that looks to push the tempo,” Achonwa said. “I think we posts need to make sure we keep up. That makes it a lot easier to beat the press.”
Notre Dame (6-1) controlled the paint, with Achonwa and her teammates getting easy layups in the low post off feeds from the perimeter, both on the break and in half-court sets.
In an attempt to stop those easy baskets, Utah State (2-7) tried collapsing on the low post, but often was whistled for fouls. Aggies guard Jenna Johnson fouled out just three minutes into the second half.
“Obviously there was a skill difference and a size difference and a physical difference today, and as the game wore on, it became more and more evident,” Utah State coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. “Achonwa was in the right place at the right time, and their guards got her easy shots.”
Achonwa was 10 for 13 from the field and made each of her three foul shots. Notre Dame shot 69.4 percent (25 for 36) while building a 66-49 halftime lead, and finished at 52 percent for the game.
Playing with many of its reserves, Notre Dame outscored Utah State 28-8 over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Utah State started the game aggressively, pursuing a fast tempo and forcing early turnovers with its press. The Aggies were 7 for 14 from 3-point range in the first half, but only 1 for 12 in the second half.
“Utah State played extremely well in the first half,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We had a complete breakdown defensively in the first half. We had absolutely no desire to guard. I think we responded a little better in the second half. We played better defense.”
Devyn Christiansen scored 21 for the Aggies.
Notre Dame, coming off its first loss of the season Wednesday to No. 3 Baylor, outrebounded Utah State 56-27 and outscored the Aggies in the paint 64-24.
Irish guard Kayla McBride, who scored eight points, left with an injured right ankle with 3:43 left in the first half. McGraw said her status was uncertain, and she hoped McBride will be ready for their trip to Las Vegas to face Alabama A&M on Dec. 19 in the opening round of the World Vision Classic.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame matches the fifth-highest single-game point total in school history, and ties its third-largest output ever at Purcell Pavilion, with the most recent higher-scoring game coming on Jan. 17, 2012 (a 120-44 win over Pittsburgh — the arena record for points and second-most overall behind 128-42 win at Mercer on Dec. 30, 2011) … the Fighting Irish equaled the second-most points in a single half in school history, and tied the arena record, having scored 66 in the second half of last year’s win over Pittsburgh (and 72 in the first half of the December 2011 win at Mercer) — Saturday’s production was the highest-scoring first half for Notre Dame in Purcell Pavilion history (previous was 61 in the first half against Cleveland State on Nov. 26, 2002 … the January 2012 win over Pittsburgh also represented the last time Notre Dame reached triple digits in a game … the 179 combined points were the most in a Fighting Irish game since Jan. 19, 2008, when Notre Dame earned a 104-86 win at Georgetown … the Fighting Irish had three players register double-doubles in the same game for the first time since Jan. 26, 2005 (a 72-65 win over St. John’s at Purcell Pavilion), when Crystal Erwin (14p/10r), Megan Duffy (14p/10a) and Jacqueline Batteast (10p/10r) pulled off that feat … junior forward Natalie Achonwa not only posted her BIG EAST-leading fifth double-double of the season (sixth career), but also scored a career-high 23 points (one more than her previous best against Mercer on Nov. 20) … Achonwa also set new personal bests with 10 field goals made and 13 attempts (she went 8-for-11 in last month’s win over Mercer) … senior guard Skylar Diggins collected her seventh career double-double (first this season), and seventh career double-digit assist game, having last hit both marks on March 27, 2012, when she had a triple-double (22 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) against No. 5 Maryland in the NCAA Raleigh Regional finals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. … sophomore forward Markisha Wright posted her second career double-double (first this season) with a season-best 14 points and a career high-tying 11 rebounds (she had the exact same stat line on Nov. 13, 2011, vs. Indiana State at Purcell Pavilion in her first career double-double) … junior forward Ariel Braker scored a career-high 15 points, three more than she had against Mercer on Nov. 20, and added a career-high five steals (previous best was four on two occasions, the last on Dec. 20, 2011, vs. Central Florida) and career high-tying three blocks (done twice before, the last on Dec. 28, 2011, vs. Longwood) — Braker has scored in double figures three times this season (all in the past five games, since she moved into the starting lineup) after reaching double digits twice in her first two years at Notre Dame … the Fighting Irish had a season-high five double-figure scorers and are 57-4 (.934) since the start of the 2009-10 season when they have at least four or more players score in double digits, including an active 27-game winning streak in such games … sophomore guard Whitney Holloway tied her career highs for points (previously vs. Hartford on Nov. 17, 2011), rebounds (last against Marquette on Dec. 7, 2011) and steals (also vs. Indiana State on Nov. 13, 2011), while setting a new personal best with 24 minutes (she played 22 minutes in the 2011 win over Indiana State) … junior guard Kaila Turner tied her season high with nine points (also vs. Mercer on Nov. 20), while sophomore guard Madison Cable tied her career best with seven rebounds (also at Central Michigan on Nov. 29) … in addition to points and double-digit scorers, Notre Dame also set season highs for rebounds (most since it had 58 vs. Longwood on Dec. 28, 2011), rebound margin (largest since a similar +29 margin at Mercer on Dec. 30, 2011), free throws made (previous was 24 at Central Michigan on Nov. 29) and blocked shots (most since March 20, 2012, also eight vs. California in NCAA Championship second-round game at Purcell Pavilion) … Utah State’s 26 three-point attempts were second-most by a visiting team in Purcell Pavilion history and most since Army tried an opponent-record 28 treys (and made 10) on Nov. 26, 2001 … Notre Dame improves to 33-3 (.917) against first-time opponents since the start of the 2000-01 season (53-7 since joining the BIG EAST 18 years ago), including an active 28-game home winning streak against new foes … the Fighting Irish are 3-3 all-time against current Western Athletic Conference teams (1-1 at Purcell Pavilion), having played a current WAC member for the first time since Dec. 28, 1990 (71-66 win over Louisiana Tech) … Notre Dame is 5-0 all-time against teams from the state of Utah, with Saturday marking the first time a women’s basketball program from the Beehive State visited Purcell Pavilion … Notre Dame is 253-19 (.930) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when leading at halftime, including a 90-2 (.978) record in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present) … the Fighting Irish are 171-6 (.966) since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96 when they score at least 80 points in a game, including a 48-2 (.960) record in the past four seasons … Notre Dame continues to show remarkable resilience after a double-digit loss, improving to 61-14 (.813) in such games dating back to 1995-96, including an active nine-game winning streak … head coach Muffet McGraw picked up her 597th win at Notre Dame on Saturday (now 597-216, .734, in her 26th year under the Golden Dome) … the Fighting Irish satisfied the hunger pangs of the holiday crowd at Purcell Pavilion, reaching the magic 88-point mark for free Big Macs for the fourth time in five home games (counting the Nov. 1 Edinboro exhibition) when Diggins buried a three-pointer from the left side with 11:21 remaining (it was Diggins’ second career Big Mac basket, following a free throw against Kentucky on Dec. 18, 2011) — in an interesting twist, three of Notre Dame’s four burger balls this year have come via the three-pointer … Notre Dame drew a crowd of 8,402 for Saturday’s matinee, the 23rd consecutive game that the Fighting Irish have welcomed at least 8,000 fans to Purcell Pavilion.