Notre Dame women's basketball: Second-half surge gives Irish another easy win

Curt Rallo
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND Notre Dame senior guard Kayla McBride was incredulous at the suggestion that the No. 5 Irish were a little … ticked … at leading No. 25 DePaul by only four points (45-41) at halftime of Tuesday’s college women’s basketball battle at Purcell Pavilion. “A little?” McBride exclaimed. The home team started the second half angry, and DePaul paid a price for the Irish passion and purpose. Notre Dame stung DePaul with a 7-0 run to open the second half and broke away for a 92-76 victory. Notre Dame stretched its second-half spurt to a 19-5 run that gave the Irish an 18-point lead, 64-46, with 15:22 remaining. DePaul trimmed the deficit to 12, 64-52, but the Irish wouldn’t let the Blue Demons get any closer. Notre Dame (5-0) plays Duquesne on Sunday in Toronto, a game that is a homecoming for Irish senior Natalie Achonwa, a native of Guelph, Ont.Notre Dame’s victory gives the Irish a 20-19 lead in the series against its former Big East rival DePaul. The Irish have won nine of the last 10 meetings against DePaul. Achonwa, playing in her second game after missing four weeks due to a torn meniscus, scored 17 points and had eight rebounds to power the Irish effort. McBride scored 16 points and had six rebounds. Taya Reimer turned in a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Reimer was 2-of-10 shooting but hit 11-of-14 free throws. Jewell Loyd scored 12 points, had eight rebounds and four assists. Lindsay Allen contributed 13 points and had six assists and only one turnover. Former Penn High School star Kelsey Reynolds scored two points for DePaul. Megan Rogowski led DePaul with 18 points. “I think it was just our defensive intensity,” McBride said of the second half surge that gave the Irish the upperhand against a scrappy DePaul team. “We started to actually guard them. That is how Coach put it in the huddle. We were able to get out in transition and get some easy buckets. From then on, we just guarded them.” Notre Dame seemed content to just try and outscore DePaul in a fast-paced game in the first half. “I thought that, offensively, it was probably a pretty entertaining game for the fans, but from my perspective, I was incredibly disappointed in our lack of defensive intensity and our inability to guard the ball and to find the shooters in transition,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I was really disappointed pretty much in the whole defense. I thought we did a good job on (DePaul’s leading scorer Megan Rogowski, who scored 18 points). We held her to three in the second half. That was really important. We looked like we just wanted to ourscore them, which is not what I want our philosophy to be. “We got them to turn it over and miss shots,” McGraw said of the second-half takeover by the Irish. “Really, we didn’t do a lot different defensively. I thought they made some uncharacteristic turnovers. They only had 14, but they had a stretch where they missed some open shots, they turned it over a couple of times, and we were able to capitalize. Credit us with being able to score, but I didn’t think defensively we did much more.” DePaul didn’t have an answer for Notre Dame’s second-half assault. “Notre Dame is a really good team,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “I thought our players came out and played fearlessly. I thought we showed toughness. We didn’t control the beginning of the second half, and then there were too many panicked possessions. “Notre Dame came out at halftime and they’re going inside. They try to get their first bucket of the second half at the basket. We knew that and didn’t defend it. And then offensively, of the first three possessions … we had two turnovers right away. They capitalized on both of those.  Kelsey Reynolds said it best, when we were preparing for Notre Dame, ‘What Notre Dame does so efficiently is make you pay for your mistakes.’” Achonwa’s performance was especially impressive. The 6-foot-3 post hit 8-of-14 shots. “It was great to have (Natalie Achonwa) back and playing well,” McGraw said. “I thought that she looked like her old self. I thought she did a lot of good things. She rebounded, scored, ran the floor, defended … she did everything that we needed her to do.” In her first game, last Saturday against the University of Pennsylvania, Achonwa played 14 minutes and scored four points. She played 27 minutes against DePaul. “I was thinking about it too much,” Achonwa said about coming back from her knee injury. “I wanted to be back so bad that I was over-thinking the game. I just let it flow a little bit more today. I wouldn’t say that I am back to the point I was before. It is a day-by-day process and it is continuing to get better.” Notre Dame committed 22 turnovers to DePaul’s 16, but capitalized better, outscoring DePaul 20-11 in points off of turnovers. The Irish outrebounded DePaul 58-33, including 20-10 on the offensive boards, but only had a 14-11 edge in second-chance points. DEPAUL (3-1): Penny 2-7 0-0 4, Harvey-Carr 0-2 0-0 0, Hrynko 3-13 4-4 11, Jenkins 4-11 1-2 11, Podkowa 6-11 4-5 17, January 5-14 2-3 13, Reynolds 0-2 2-2 2, Rogowski 6-12 3-4 18, McGee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-72 16-20 76. NOTRE DAME (5-0): Achonwa 8-14 1-3 17, Braker 1-2 0-0 2, Allen 6-8 0-0 13, McBride 6-9 3-5 16, Loyd 4-9 4-6 12, Holloway 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson 0-0 2-2 2, Reimer 2-10 11-14 15, Cable 2-3 2-2 7, Mabrey 3-11 0-1 8, Huffman 0-0 0-0 0, Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-66 23-33 92. Halftime — Notre Dame 45-41. 3-Point Goals — DePaul 8-21 (Rogowski 3-5, Jenkins 2-6, Hrynko 1-2, Podkowa 1-3, January 1-4, Reynolds 0-1), Notre Dame 5-14 (Mabrey 2-7, Allen 1-1, McBride 1-2, Cable 1-2, Loyd 0-2). Fouled Out — Penny. Rebounds — DePaul 33 (Podkowa 13), Notre Dame 58 (Reimer 14). Assists — DePaul 16 (Jenkins 6), Notre Dame 22 (Allen 6). Total Fouls — DePaul 30, Notre Dame 16. A — 8,518.

Notre Dame guard Madison Cable (22) competes with DePaul guard/forward Megan Podkowa (30) for a rebound during a women's NCAA college basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, at the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER