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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

ND Women's Basketball: Irish shut down Pirates in second half

Despite some sluggishness from a strange traveling schedule designed to avoid the Northeastern blizzard, No. 2 Notre Dame ran away from Seton Hall in the second half to win 69-49 Saturday in South Orange, N.J.

"Defensively, we played much better in the second half, held them to just 22 points," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "I was pleased with the defense. Offensively, we could have shot the ball a little bit better. We could have executed a little bit better. But overall, I was pleased with the defense."

Junior forward Ariel Braker tied a career-high with 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field and a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe.

"She did a lot of good things around the basket," McGraw said. "I think she was just able to work in the zone offense and find the gaps in the zone. She did a nice job cutting to the basket. We worked the pick and roll pretty well. She scored in a lot of different ways."

Junior guard Kayla McBride added 12 points and nine rebounds, and junior forward Natalie Achonwa had 11 points and nine rebounds, as well.

The Irish (22-1, 10-0 Big East) led by seven points at halftime, and Seton Hall (8-15, 3-7) did everything it could to stay close before Notre Dame pulled away. Senior guard Brittany Morris led the Pirates with 16 points. Last year, the Irish blew out Seton Hall by 38. This year's team posed a different challenge.

Anne Donovan, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, has the Pirates heading in the right direction, McGraw said.

"I think they're definitely better than they were last year," she said. "They shot the ball much better. I think they definitely have improved."

Saturday's game, the Play 4Kay game honoring former N.C. State coach Kay Yow, drew Seton Hall's biggest crowd of the year with more than 2,600 fans in attendance. 

This was the 117th career win for senior guards SkylarDiggins and Kaila Turner, which tied last year's class for most wins in four years. 

Turner sat out Saturday's game with a torn tendon in her elbow, but McGraw said the team hopes she will return in time for the Big East tournament.

Notre Dame now faces a quick turnaround as No. 11 Louisville (20-4, 8-2) comes to Purcell Pavilion tonight in a showdown of two of the Big East's best teams. 

"[The turnaround] was difficult," McGraw said. "We had a lot to do [yesterday]. That was hard. It's hard to get everything in. So we just tried to stick to a couple basic things. But that's going to be really difficult to have that quick turnaround."

The Cardinals are riding a six-game winning streak and currently sit at third place in the conference. On average, Louisville causes six more turnovers a game than it gives up, so Notre Dame will have to take care of the ball.

"It's a big challenge," McGraw said. "This is a really talented team. They've got great guard play. There are really, really a lot of mismatches for us defensively. They score a lot of points. This is the best team we've played, probably, since Connecticut. This is a team that plays good defense and really scores well."

But the Irish are on a 17-game winning streak and have been nearly unbeatable at home, their only loss this year coming to No. 1 Baylor on Dec. 5

With an Irish win, Diggins will reach 118 - a new program record - tonight against Louisville in Purcell Pavilion at 9 p.m.

Contact Matthew Robison at