Nov. 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins was nowhere near her best against UCLA. Fortunately for the Fighting Irish, her teammates did more than enough to beat the Bruins.
Freshman Jewell Loyd had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Kayla McBride scored 18 points, and No. 5 Notre Dame wasn’t threatened in the second half in beating the 19th-ranked Bruins 76-64 on Friday.
Diggins had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists, but shot 5 of 17 and committed four turnovers.
Natalie Achonwa had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Fighting Irish (4-0), who shot 29 of 60 (48.3 percent) to UCLA’s 24 of 61 (39.3 percent).
“I was so pleased with how the game went because we hit adversity early,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “It wasn’t easy, nothing was easy for us today. As ugly as it was, it was great for a young team to come of age.”
Regarding Diggins, a first-team All-American as a junior last season, McGraw acknowledged the fact that it wasn’t one of her better games.
“No, she didn’t (play at her usual level),” McGraw said. “She feels the burden of being the one. When Jewell and Kayla played the way they did, it allowed her to relax.”
McBride sat out a little more than three minutes early on after injuring her right ankle. After being re-taped, she came back into the game and didn’t show any ill effects.
“It’s OK,” she said of her ankle. “The first time I came back in, it was a little stiff. We had a lot of poise down the stretch. They’re a tough team, they played defense to the last second.”
Loyd, who shot 8 of 12 including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, made three straight baskets midway through the first half to cap a 15-2 run that put the Irish ahead for good.
Achonwa scored four points during an 8-2 run to start the second half, giving the Irish a 44-31 lead. UCLA drew within eight on two straight baskets by Markel Walker, but that was as close as the Bruins would get. Notre Dame then went on another 8-2 spurt for a 57-43 advantage with 10 1/2 minutes left.
Walker had 21 points and nine rebounds and Alyssia Brewer scored 10 points for the Bruins (2-1), who played without junior point guard Thea Lemberger, sidelined by a sprained left knee. Lemberger, listed as day-to-day, had 18 points and no turnovers in 35 minutes to lead the Bruins to an 86-80 victory at then-No. 11 Oklahoma on Nov. 14.
“It definitely affected us,” UCLA coach Cori Close said regarding Lemberger’s absence. “Thea is really a smart player. She plays with great purpose. We’re thankful we’re getting her back soon.
“We’re going to learn from this. We play teams like Notre Dame because that’s what we’re building to become. We did force them into things, we just didn’t always capitalize.”
As far as Diggins was concerned, Close said: “I credit Mariah (Williams), Markel (Walker) and our other perimeter defenders. I’m proud of our team for defending Skylar.”
UCLA took a 6-0 lead and extended it to 10-3, prompting a Notre Dame timeout. The Irish responded by scoring the next seven points to forge a tie.
Notre Dame’s 15-2 run gave the Irish a 25-17 lead, and a 3-pointer by McBride and a layup by Diggins made it 36-25 before the Bruins scored the last four points of the first half to draw within seven.
The Irish went 35-4 last season, but became just the third team to lose back-to-back NCAA championship games when Baylor beat them 80-61 to win the title.
UCLA entered with a 5-1 record over Notre Dame at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins, 9-5 overall in the series, beat the Irish 86-83 in double overtime two years ago in South Bend, Ind.
Many in the announced crowd of 3,046 at Pauley Pavilion wore green in supporting the Irish. The top-ranked Notre Dame football team (11-0) also is in town to face Southern California on Saturday. A victory will put the Irish in the BCS title game in January.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2009-10 season … two of those four victories have come against ranked opponents, with the Fighting Irish also taking down No. 19/21 Ohio State, 57-51 on Nov. 9 at the Carrier Classic aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C. … Friday’s win was the first true road victory for Notre Dame at a Top 25 opponent since Feb. 27, 2012, when the Fighting Irish defeated No. 4 Connecticut, 72-59 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. (a win that clinched the outright BIG EAST Conference regular-season title) … Notre Dame earns its first win over UCLA since Nov. 14, 1998 (a 99-82 win over the sixth-ranked Bruins at Purcell Pavilion, with UCLA still leading the all-time series, 9-5 … the Fighting Irish also have now won the past two series games at Pauley Pavilion, also defeating the Bruins, 93-91 in double overtime the last time the teams clashed in Los Angeles on Nov. 30, 1997 … Notre Dame held UCLA to its lowest point total in the series since Dec. 22, 1989, when the Fighting Irish edged the Bruins, 61-60 at Purcell Pavilion … Notre Dame is 24-20 (.545) all-time against the current Pac-12 Conference alignment, with a 14-16 (.467) record away from home (road/neutral sites combined) — the Fighting Irish also have won 21 of their last 28 games against current Pac-12 schools … Notre Dame is 25-15 (.625) all-time against teams from the state of California, with a 15-11 (.577) record away from home and 23-7 (.767) mark in the 26-year Muffet McGraw era … the Fighting Irish are 9-10 (.474) all-time when playing a game in the state of California, including wins in eight of their last 10 contests played in the Golden State … Notre Dame defeats a California school on its home court for the first time since Nov. 26, 2004, when the Fighting Irish downed USC, 60-56 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena (then the Trojans’ home court prior to the construction of the Galen Center) … with 12 points on Friday, senior All-America guard Skylar Diggins moved into fifth place on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,771 points, passing Alicia Ratay (1,763 from 1999-2003) … Diggins also logged her 31st career “5-5-5” game and second in a row … junior forward Natalie Achonwa registered her second consecutive double-double, third of the season and fourth of her career — Achonwa is the first Fighting Irish player with consecutive double-doubles since Jan. 23-31, 2012, when Devereaux Peters chalked up three consecutive double-doubles against Tennessee (16p/16r), St. John’s (18p/15r) and Rutgers (10p/17r) … freshman guard Jewell Loyd logged her second consecutive “5-5-5” game … Notre Dame is 251-19 (.930) when leading at the half since the start of the 2000-01 season, including wins in 179 of their last 192 games (.932) and an 88-2 (.978) mark in the past four years.