Notre Dame set a new school record for fewest turnovers in a nationally televised game Sunday at the DePaul Athletic Center - and lost by 29.
The Irish (14-9, 5-7 Big East) turned the ball over only six times but shot just 25 percent from the field Sunday and suffered a 79-50 drubbing at the hands of No. 15 DePaul (19-5, 7-5). It was Notre Dame's worst defeat since Tennessee beat the Irish 89-50 in the NCAA Tournament on March 17, 2002.
Unfazed by Notre Dame's ability to maintain possession, DePaul attacked to the very end, scoring on fast break opportunities and long three-pointers in the final minutes to cap off a game in which the Blue Demons shot 51 percent from the field.
"We need to improve our defense," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "Our rebounding has been a problem all year long. We had the same problems we've had all year. We've just got to keep working to fix them."
DePaul guard Allie Quigley and forward Khara Smith led the Blue Demons past the Irish with precise shooting and forceful rebounding. Quigley, who led the nation in three-point percentage as a freshman last year, connected on 4-of-5 from behind the arc and 8-of-12 overall en route to a 26-point performance. Smith dominated the post, scoring 12 points and adding 19 rebounds. The 19 rebounds, which tie for the most ever against the Irish, are the highest total by a Notre Dame opponent since Wendy Scholtens of Vanderbilt hit the mark on Jan. 8, 1989 in an 84-64 Commodores victory.
"[Smith] did a great job," McGraw said. "She was really physical inside and did a nice job going after the ball - worked hard to get it."
Only a Tulyah Gaines leaner with 1.3 seconds remaining kept the loss under 30 points for the Irish.
DePaul got off to a quick start, mounting a 20-10 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. The Irish clawed their way back during the next five minutes with solid defense and steady production from the offense. Two free throws by senior guard Megan Duffy with 4:09 remaining gave Notre Dame its first lead of the game.
The teams went back-and-forth until the break, and Quigley's three-pointer with 53 seconds left broke a tie to give the Blue Demons a 29-26 lead at halftime.
"I thought we executed pretty well in the first half," McGraw said. "We got good shots - we just didn't make them. In the second half, it was the same thing pretty much. In this one it was hard because we missed so many easy shots. We missed a lot of layups and a lot of easy jumpers, and we just put our heads down and felt sorry for ourselves."
DePaul outrebounded Notre Dame 51-37, including 25-16 in the first half, and had 22 assists on 29 field goals to Notre Dame's six on 17 baskets from the floor.
Duffy played all 40 minutes but struggled from the field. She hit just 2-of-7 from three-point range and was 0-for-5 on shots inside the arc. She made all six of her free throw attempts to finish with 12 points and four assists.
Sophomore guard Charel Allen led the Irish with 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field.
"I thought Charel played well for us," McGraw said. "She did a lot of good things to try to get us going. She was active and kept trying to score late in the game."
Lindsay Schrader made just 1-of-12 from the floor in her six-point performance, her lone basket coming on an off-balance three-pointer as the shot clock ran down late in the first half, but led the Irish with seven rebounds.
"We were outrebounded pretty significantly; we did a very poor job on the boards," McGraw said. "I thought Lindsay Schrader did a good job on the defensive boards, but she was the only one."
The Blue Demons held in check Irish forward Courtney LaVere, who had made 21 of her last 29 field goal attempts coming into the game.
LaVere shot 5-of-14 from the floor and managed just 10 points and six rebounds.
Notre Dame next faces Connecticut Sunday in the Joyce Center.
u The Blue Demons connected on 6-of-14 from three-point range, but their performance Sunday was a far cry from their Jan. 17 encounter at Notre Dame when they went 13-of-29 from long range.
"We did a much better job than last time we played them," McGraw said. "I thought holding them to six threes was pretty good defensively. Aside from Quigley, we did a pretty good job on them."
Still, for the season Notre Dame opponents are shooting 37.3 percent from the field, a mark that if maintained would shatter the Irish opponent record of 34.0 percent set in 1991-92.
u Notre Dame is now in a virtual tie for spots No. 9 through 12 in the Big East with three teams - Cincinnati, Villanova and West Virginia - all 4-6 in conference. Villanova owns the tiebreaker over Notre Dame for the Big East Tournament thanks to its win over the Irish Feb. 7, and Notre Dame has yet to play the Bearcats and Mountaineers.
At 3-8 in the league, Georgetown and Seton Hall are a game and a half behind the four teams currently holding the last bid to Storrs, Conn. for the Big East Tournament.