Skylar Diggins and Natalie Novosel each scored 22 points, and Kayla McBride and Brittany Mallory chipped in the rest to help No. 2 Notre Dame rout Hartford 98-43 on Thursday night in the semifinals of the preseason WNIT.
McBride had 14 points and Mallory added 12 for the Irish (3-0), who will visit No. 1 Baylor on Sunday for the tournament title.
“They really did shoot it well and they got good looks,” Notre Dame Muffet McGraw said. “I thought they did a really nice job of using the ball screen. They created on their own. They found each other. They’re really starting to play well together.”
Hartford (2-1) had no answer for Notre Dame on either side of the court. The Hawks committed 30 turnovers and only shot 39.5 percent from the field. Daphne Elliott led the way for the Hawks with nine points and three assists.
The Irish came out strong opening with a 10-2 lead and set the tone of the game on the defensive end by forcing a shot-clock violation on the opening possession.
“Coach preaches getting up there and making them uncomfortable early,” Diggins said. “I think especially early in the game we try to get out to a great start and that defensive intensity is what leads us to offense.”
Notre Dame broke the game open with a 14-0 run over a 5:29 stretch midway through the first half. The Irish implemented a full-court press on defense for the majority of the half and stifled any kind of Hartford rally.
Hartford struggled with turnovers against the Irish defense, committing 18 in the first half—the same number of shots the Hawks had.
“We played against UConn last year, but it’s different when it’s Notre Dame and it’s No. 2,” Elliott said. “You’re in a different kind of setting other than Connecticut. I think they’re really great players and they showed us up tonight.”
A pregame ceremony was held to honor coach Muffet McGraw on her induction to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this past June. A banner commemorating her induction now hangs from the rafters of Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
“Their first unit plays great together and then they’re second unit comes out and takes the ball from you,” Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “It’s a different kind of defensive intensity, but it’s relentless. It never really gives up.”