Game Notes: DePaul at Notre Dame
The Irish aren’t lucky, but good.
by Quinn Peterson
The biggest event in the state of Indiana yesterday featured Eli Manning and Tom Brady facing off in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, no doubt. The potential undercard, however, took place earlier that day in South Bend. That’s where Skylar Diggins and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish made slight work of the DePaul Blue Demons, coasting to a 90-70 victory.
“They’re a great team,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said after the game. “They’re very, very well-coached and one of the four teams that I think have the best chance to win the National Championship.”
It took a few minutes for the Irish to find their groove, however. Their first possessions resulted in 0-for-4 shooting and 2 turnovers, with DePaul jumping out to an early 4-0 lead.
Finally, Natalie Novosel connected on a 3, Brittany Mallory came up with a steal and a layup, Bruno was forced to call a timeout, and that was that—they never trailed again.
That small chain of events was indicative of the rest of the game, as well, as three-pointers and steals were the source of much of the Irish’s success, along with Novosel and Mallory being the key players. The Blue Demons notched things at 12, but that’s the closest they would get it. From there, a 17-4 Irish run put things out of reach and N.D. in control for good.
Heading into halftime, the Irish had played a nearly-flawless 20 minutes, shooting 71 percent, including 6-of-7 from three, forcing 13 turnovers (for 21 points) and playing together (18 assists). Novosel set the tone with 17 points and six threes. Diggins decided to take the role of facilitator, looking for her teammates instead of her shot.
“We’re an incredibly unselfish group and that starts at the point with Skylar,” said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. “She’s doing a great job with her assist-to-turnover ratio. As a team, our assist-to-turnover ratio has been good. We just find somebody that’s got a better shot than we do. We’re willing to give it up, we don’t care who gets the credit, we just want the win. That’s been something that I’ve been really, really proud of.”
“I thought Brittany was outstanding, as always. Lockdown defender—their leading scorer [Anna Martin], held to 3-for-18—she did a magnificent job. Natalie had an incredible offensive performance. She really, really just shot the ball extremely well and got great looks.”
“Whenever you’ve got four guards on the floor, their ability to share, their willingness to share, their natural instincts to share, is what makes this game beautiful,” Bruno praised after the game. “It’s something that all coaches would preach and work toward. It’s an inexplicable function of the game, and their chemistry and experience together is at one of the highest levels that we’ve seen in college basketball for a long time.”
The Irish guard-core—Diggins, Novosel, and Mallory, along with Kayla McBride, Fraderica Miller and Kaila Turner—was effective on both ends of the floor, in fact, as they dogged the Blue Demons (who have very few legit ballhandlers) up and down the court all night.
Notre Dame began the second half on a 9-2 run to effectively dash any hopes the Blue Demons may have still had. To put it in further perspective, for a stretch carrying over from the first half to the second half, they connected on 22 of 24 field goals.
McGraw admitted to pulling her studs out a tad too early, which let the Blue Demons—who fought to the end—actually win the second half, 39-34. As great as they looked, there was still much to be desired and improved upon.
“I thought we had some really good spurts,” she said. “I thought we came out in the second half and had a nice spurt there, but I subbed too early and we went flat, and the posts weren’t ready to play today and that was disappointing.
“Overall, I was disappointed with the defense for the entire game,” she continued. “Our transition defense—they got a couple of layups—our post defense…we really, really played poorly defensively.”
The lone bright spot for DePaul was their inside play, as Jasmine Penny (24 points, 8-for-12 from the field) and Katherine Harry (20 points, 10-for-15 from the field) had some of their strongest games of the year. Unfortunately, the rest of the team shot just 10-for-34.
Novosel finished with 21 points to lead the Irish, who had five players score in double figures. Sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa had 16, Mallory had 14 and Devereaux Peters and Diggns had 11 each. Diggins also had 10 assists for her third double-double of the season.