In front of a sold-out, packed McGrath-Phillips Arena, DePaul’s women’s basketball team was seeking to extend its home win streak to 14 games against No. 2/2 Notre Dame, Feb. 24.
Much to the chagrin of the fans in attendance, the Fighting Irish held court with little adversity to remain perfect in Big East play.
Led by senior guard Skylar Diggins, who finished with a triple-double, the Fighting Irish cruised to a dominant 84-56 win over the Blue Demons, snapping DePaul’s 13-game home win streak.
“I wasn’t pleased with what we showed today for the first three quarters of the game,” said DePaul head coach Doug Bruno. “You just can’t stand there and take it without fight, and that’s what our program has always been about: fighting and competing.”
Diggins and the Fighting Irish completely controlled the pace of the first half, comfortably settling into an effective halfcourt offense that featured numerous drive-and-kick opportunities. The Irish shot 42.9 percent (15-35 FG, 4-9 3FG) and were aggressive getting to the free throw line (6-7).
Notre Dame also took advantage of nine DePaul turnovers, turning the giveaways into 14 points of their own. A Jewell Loyd triple from the top of the arc with time expiring sent the Irish into the locker room up 40-17. DePaul’s 17 points represented its lowest scoring first half of the season.
The visitors’ defense was just as good, if not better than their offense. The Irish held the Blue Demons to a dismal 26.9 percent shooting from the field, including 1-of-8 from three-point land.
On Diggins’ play, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw was impressed with the South Bend, Ind. native’s command of the game.
“It’s amazing, just to be able to share the ball like that. But I think the rebounding’s the most amazing thing,” said McGraw. “A double-double for Sky is nothing out of the ordinary … but to get in there and get 10 rebounds, that takes a lot of effort and intensity.”
“The assist part, I had the easy part with my teammates making shots,” said Diggins. “We got out in transition well and we just played off of each other. I think we play our best in transition. We also do such a good job of moving without the ball.”
The Blue Demons did not fare much better in the second half until the 12-minute mark, when they started to show the fight that has been synonymous with Bruno’s teams.
“I really am actually kind of excited about the way our players played the last 12 minutes of the game,” said Bruno. “They actually played with some piss and vinegar and fight.”
DePaul’s substitutes worked hard on defense to prevent the No. 2 team in the nation from scoring any more, and four Fighting Irish players ultimately finished in double-figure scoring. Loyd led the team with 19 points, Kayla McBride had 16 and Natalie Achonwa finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“Notre Dame has great athleticism, great quickness and great players. Our job is to figure out how to beat people who have this athleticism,” said Bruno. “It’s not like our players weren’t fighting, it’s just been a ‘blah’ bunch of games.”
The Blue Demons next take on the Georgetown Hoyas in a must-win game at home Tuesday at 8 p.m.