SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame is really something these days.
More specifically, the Irish keep punishing their opponents by 30-something.
Ruling from the get-go and even reaching this latest 30-point margin by halftime, No. 5-ranked Notre Dame pounded North Carolina, 94-62, in women’s college basketball Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion for its sixth straight victory.
"Notre Dame is a great team; offensively they are just incredible," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "Defensively, they are deceptive, more than you think they are. We turned the ball over a lot (22), which we haven't been doing. They exposed our youth, our inexperience, our weaknesses."
Marina Mabrey scored a season-high 25 points — all within the first three quarters — and added season highs of eight assists and five steals, as the Irish improved to 21-2 overall, 9-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
ND is tied atop the ACC with Louisville, which cruised by host Virginia on Thursday in a battle of the other 8-1 league clubs.
Arike Ogunbowale added 24 points for the Irish to go with five assists and four steals, and Kristina Nelson netted 11 points off the bench.
"I think the past two games we really showed how we can share the ball and that's nice to see," Mabrey said.
ND forward Kathryn Westbeld was poked in the right eye late in the third quarter and the eye later swelled shut. Coach Muffet McGraw said afterwards that Westbeld is “day-to-day.”
"We've had a doctor and an opthalmologist look at her already," McGraw said. "There's no structural damage. It's just swollen shut. So she'll be day-to-day."
Notre Dame captured its fourth straight win of 30 or more points, tying a program record within conference play. The 1998-99 squad originated the feat with Big East victories over Seton Hall, St. John’s, Syracuse and Providence.
The overall mark for consecutive 30-point wins is five, achieved early in the 2014-15 season.
The Irish were sharp at both ends of the court from the outset.
They set up several easy baskets in transition with takeaways out of their aggressive 2-3 zone, and they crisply found mismatches and open scoring angles on offense.
In the process, they finished with a season-high 28 assists, including six by Jessica Shepard, who matched her career high.
"I like the unselfishness we showed out there," McGraw said.
"I thought we played very well defensively through the first three quarters. Our (2-3) zone was good and we identified their shooters. Defensively, we are more committed and we're playing harder on defense."
Notre Dame built a 51-21 advantage by halftime.
A 9-0 run gave the Irish an 11-2 lead in the opening 2:30. They added two spurts of 7-0 in the second quarter, then closed that period with another 9-0 run.
Mabrey had 16 points and three steals by the half. Ogunbowale added 13 points, all five of her assists and three steals by the break, while Shepard had eight points, eight rebounds and five of her assists before Notre Dame headed back to the locker room.
ND outscored the Tar Heels 30-4 in paint points, 10-0 in fast-break points and 15-3 in points off turnovers in the opening half.
The Irish hit 21-of-39 field goals in the half for 54 percent to the Heels’ 9-of-33 for 27 percent, and outrebounded the visitors 28-15.
"They are always good offensively," Hatchell remarked. "They have excellent size and their system is very good. You take one thing away and they make you pay for it somewhere else."
North Carolina was paced by Jamie Cherry with 15 points, Paris Kea with 13 and Janelle Bailey with 11. Also the Heels’ three top scorers were held more than 12 points below their collective average of 51.3, and they didn’t pick up 26 of their combined 39 until the second half.
Notre Dame, which won its 20th consecutive home game, visits No. 19 Duke for a 1 p.m. contest Sunday on ESPN2.It’s ND’s last encounter of the regular season against a team that’s currently ranked.
After that game, the Irish are off until hosting Georgia Tech on Feb. 11, their lone one-week idle stretch of the ACC season.
NORTH CAROLINA (14-8): Murray 2-3 0-0 4, Bailey 4-14 3-6 11, Cherry 5-11 2-2 15, Kea 5-16 0-0 13, Koenen 4-16 0-0 8, Sullivan 2-2 0-0 4, Van Nes 0-0 0-0 0, Church 1-4 0-0 3, Jones 1-4 2-2 4, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 24-70 7-10 62.
NOTRE DAME (21-2): Shepard 3-6 2-6 8, Westbeld 3-5 0-0 6, Mabrey 9-15 4-4 25, Ogunbowale 9-18 2-2 24, Young 3-11 1-4 7, Butler 1-1 0-0 2, Nelson 5-6 1-1 11, Patterson 3-6 2-6 8, Benz 1-2 0-0 3, Cole 0-2 0-0 0, Totals 37-72 12-23 94.
North Carolina 11 10 16 25 —62
Notre Dame 26 25 18 25 —94
3-Point Goals-North Carolina 7-21 (Cherry 3-7, Kea 3-7, Koenen 0-3, Church 1-4), Notre Dame 8-20 (Westbeld 0-1, Mabrey 3-7, Ogunbowale 4-8, Benz 1-2, Cole 0-2). Assists-North Carolina 14 (Cherry 6), Notre Dame 28 (Mabrey 8). Fouled Out-North Carolina Murray, Rebounds-North Carolina 41 (Bailey 10), Notre Dame 46 (Shepard 8). Total Fouls-North Carolina 18, Notre Dame 8. Technical Fouls-None.A-7,617.