SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Muffet McGraw knows Notre Dame’s defense is key to the team’s hopes of returning to the Final Four.
Kayla McBride scored 16 points Sunday and No. 2 Notre Dame placed six players in double figures in a 99-34 victory over Indiana State in the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Skylar Diggins, Devereaux Peters and Markisha Wright had 14 points apiece for the Irish (2-0), who will play Hartford in the tournament semifinals on Thursday. Wright also had 11 rebounds, and Fraderica Miller and Natalie Novosel each scored 10.
Notre Dame had 25 steals and converted Indiana State’s 36 turnovers into 51 points, delighting its coach with its tough team defense.
“We really work hard on (stealing off the dribble) in practice,” McGraw said. “I think Skylar brought that and then we saw how it changed the game. Fraderica had that when she came in and was doing the same thing and I think that Whitney (Holloway) is doing the same thing. She is watching them and learning from them and now she can get up on the ball. For her, it is a lot different than guarding Skylar, which she has to do in practice. She is getting great preparation by guarding Skylar in practice.”
Sycamore coach Teri Moren said it’s tough to prepare for Notre Dame’s defense.
“It is hard to simulate their length and speed in practice,” she said. “I think that having Whitley would have helped our cause because we had to put a freshman (Natasha Zurek) in the starting lineup against the No. 2 team on the road and that is not a good thing.”
Indiana State was playing without junior point guard Taylor Whitley, who injured her knee against Detroit on Friday and will visit the doctor next week.
Anna Munn scored 13 for Indiana State (1-1)
Notre Dame used its stellar defense to get off to a quick start for the second consecutive game. The Irish jumped to an 18-0 lead in the first six minutes, forcing eight early turnovers. Deja Mattox converted a layup at the 14:32 mark to get Indiana State on the board, but Notre Dame reeled off another nine straight to build a 27-2 advantage at the 12:27 mark.
The Irish carried a 58-15 lead into halftime. They forced 21 first-half turnovers while committing only four, and Diggins had 11 points at the break.
Novosel became the 29th player in Notre Dame history with 1,000 career points when she hit a free throw early in the second half.
“Most of it has to do with how well this team shares the ball,” Novosel said. “I just run off the screens and get open.”