Skylar Diggins led the Irish with 22 points and added three rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Stifling Defense Helps No. 2 Irish Beat No. 18 Hoyas 80-60

Jan. 10, 2012

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WASHINGTON (AP) – What a strange first five minutes it was. The game was essentially played on one end of the court. Notre Dame never seemed to have the ball. Georgetown kept grabbing offensive rebound after offensive rebound.

And only had two points to show for it.

It’s a bit dicey to let the No. 2 team in the country off the hook like that, and the Hoyas paid the price. Once the Irish got going, they rolled to a 21-point halftime lead and beat No. 18 Georgetown 80-60 Tuesday night.

“We were lucky,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We were just really lucky.”

To be fair, the Irish were also pretty good over the final 35 minutes. Skylar Diggins finished with 22 points, Natalie Novosel added 21, and Kayla McBride had 16 for Notre Dame (16-1, 4-0 BIG EAST, while Brittany Mallory’s defense made Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers a nonfactor, holding the conference’s leading scorer to 13 points on 3 for 18 shooting.

The Irish also went 28 for 32 from the free throw line as they avoided a post-UConn letdown. Notre Dame ended Connecticut’s 57-game BIG EAST regular season winning streak Saturday and is now 5-1 against teams ranked in the Top 25.

The Irish have won 13 straight, their only loss coming at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20.

Rogers came into the game averaging 20.1 points, but she had two fouls before the game was eight minutes old and didn’t score in the first half.

“We tried to trap her a little bit, and I thought we were smart in that,” McGraw said. “We made her work hard for her shots.”

Rodgers went 2 for 11 from 3-point range and committed five turnovers for the Hoyas (13-4, 2-2), who have been as hot-and-cold in big games as their 2-4 record vs. ranked teams suggests. Rodgers has struggled in back-to-back games, going 4 for 19 in a win over South Florida on Saturday.

“Sometimes when you live and die by the jump shot, that’s how it goes,” Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “But she’s got to understand she’s a better player than that. She can put it on the floor, she can get to the basket, but when your game is the 3-point shooter and that’s what she’s known for, you just have a tendency to going back to doing what you do.”

Notre Dame won despite committing 18 turnovers and taking 28 fewer shots than Georgetown, a statistical fluke created by the Hoyas’ persistence on the offensive boards – and their inability to capitalize on it. They had seven rebounds in those infamous first five minutes alone, but they were trailing 4-2 because they were 1 for 11 from the field.

Georgetown had 15 offensive rebounds at halftime – and only four second-chance points. The Hoyas had also forced eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes – but didn’t convert them into a single point.

The Irish led 37-16 at the break and held on despite foul trouble. Diggins picked up her fourth with 11:11 to play, and Mallory got her fourth with 10 minutes remaining.

Rodgers’ first 3-pointer capped a 7-0 run that cut Notre Dame’s lead to 48-37 with 11 minutes left, and she connected again to make the score 58-48 with 7:01 to go.

But the Irish responded each time, closing with a 18-8 run, and kept the Hoyas at bay at the free throw line, making 16 of 18 attempts in the second half.

“Teams in the BIG EAST are too good to get buried by 21 at the half,” Williams-Flournoy said. “It’s just too hard to come back.”

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 5-1 this season against ranked opponents, including a 3-1 record away from home (2-1 in true road games) … this was the second time this season the Fighting Irish had played Top 25 opponents in consecutive games, and both times Notre Dame won each end of this ranked doubleheader (at #12/14 Purdue and vs. #8/7 Kentucky on Dec. 10 & 18; vs. #2 Connecticut and at #18/17 Georgetown Jan. 7 & 10) … Notre Dame’s 16-1 start ties the second-best record after 17 games in school history, trailing only a 17-0 debut in 2000-01 and matching the 16-1 start in 2009-10 … the current 13-game Fighting Irish winning streak is fifth-longest in school history … Notre Dame posted its 13th win of the season by 20 points or more … the Fighting Irish had four or more double-figure scorers for the ninth time this year and improve to 43-4 (.915) with at least four players scoring 10 points dating back to the start of the 2009-10 season … Notre Dame collected at least 40 rebounds for the 10th time in the past 11 games … the Fighting Irish set season lows with 44 field goal attempts and four steals … Notre Dame shot better than 50 percent from the field for the ninth time this year, topping the 55-percent level for the fifth time … Notre Dame also scored at least 80 points for the 11th time this season … Georgetown produced a Fighting Irish opponent season-low with 12 turnovers, while the Hoyas’ 23 three-point attempts tied an opponent season high … Notre Dame held its opponent to 61 points or fewer for the 14th time this season … the Fighting Irish also kept their opponent to a sub-.300 field goal percentage for the eighth time this year, including the fifth time in six games … Notre Dame rises to 25-3 all-time against Georgetown, the second-most wins against one opponent in school history (Marquette-31) … the Fighting Irish also are 10-2 all-time at McDonough Arena, returning to the win column in Washington, D.C., for the first time since Jan. 19, 2008 (a 104-86 victory over Georgetown) … Notre Dame has held the Hoyas to fewer than 70 points in 20 of the 23 BIG EAST Conference matchups, going 20-0 in these games … Notre Dame held Georgetown to a season-low 16 points in the first half … senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel scored in double figures for the 24th consecutive game, tying Beth Morgan (Feb. 10, 1994-Jan. 19, 1995) for the second-longest streak in school history … Novosel also jumped one spot into 18th place on the Fighting Irish career scoring list with 1,253 points, passing Mary Beth Schueth (1,233 points from 1981-85) … fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters moved up to 27th place on the Notre Dame all-time scoring chart with 1,036 points, passing Mollie Peirick (1,034 points from 1994-98) … junior guard Skylar Diggins scored at least 20 points for the eighth time this year (third in four games) and the 24th time in her career, rising to eighth place in school history and breaking a tie in that category with Shari Matvey (1979-83) and Heidi Bunek (1985-89) … Diggins also jumped to seventh place in the Fighting Irish record books with 391 career assists, passing former teammate Melissa Lechlitner (388 from 2006-10) … Peters grabbed the 700th rebound of her career on Tuesday (she has 704 caroms, closing in on the Fighting Irish all-time top 10 — Krissi Davis is 10th with 730 from 1987-91) … fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory appeared in her 129th career game on Tuesday, tying Charel Allen (2004-08) and Ericka Haney (1998-2002) for ninth place on the Notre Dame career games played list … several former Notre Dame women’s basketball players were on hand Tuesday night, including Kristin (Knapp) Cole (’94), now an assistant coach at George Washington, and Erica Williamson (’10), who currently serves as director of basketball operations at Loyola (Md.).