SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Written neatly on the toe of Skylar Diggins’ left shoe is the word “NEXT,” and on her right shoe, “PLAY.”
“I’m working on my mental focus, managing my frustration,” said Diggins, who can sometimes be seen with a bewildered scowl after being whistled for fouls. “It helps me move on to the next play. Sometimes I get caught up and let the last couple plays drag instead of moving on to the next play.”
Diggins apparently handled that objective with ease Sunday. She penetrated at will. When she wasn’t scoring on fast breaks, she was hitting pull-up jumpers or feeding forward Natalie Achonwa for easy layups.
Achonwa had 16 points and 12 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season for Notre Dame (16-1, 5-0). She scored eight of Notre Dame’s first 12 points, all on layups.
“We’re gelling and I think we just know where each other are on the court,” Achonwa said. “Skylar sees everyone on the court, even if you’re behind her, she still knows you’re behind her.”
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the pair make a tough combination.
“That really makes us hard to guard,” McGraw said. “If you think about trying to double-team inside on Natalie, you have to worry about the shooters on the perimeter. You can’t really zone us when we shoot that well, you have to play man-to-man, and we like our man-to-man offense.”
St. John’s (9-7, 3-1) was led by Nadirah McKenith with 15 points.
“They have so many weapons, you’re trying to limit what you can,” Red Storm coach Joe Tartamella said. “Achonwa really set the tone early from a rebounding standpoint, asserting herself in the paint. I thought it took us too long to adjust to what she was doing. Both of them really gave them the spark they needed early to try and give us that initial punch.”
The Fighting Irish took a 39-25 halftime lead on a drive through traffic by Diggins as the clock expired. Notre Dame outrebounded St. John’s 48-22 and outscored the Red Storm 38-24 in the paint.
Notre Dame started the second half cold, going scoreless until Achonwa hit a jumper in the lane with 16 minutes left to play. But St. John’s was unable to capitalize, scoring two points during that span.
Madison Cable came off the bench for Notre Dame and was 3-for-3 from three-point range in the second half, when the game was in hand for the Irish, giving her 13 points and tying her career high. As a team, the Irish hit 7-of-11 from 3-point range.
Attendance was 9,149, giving the Irish their seventh sellout of their first nine home games. That’s one shy of their season record, set last season.
Notre Dame senior reserve Kaila Turner left the game with a knee injury with 5:32 left to play in the game, falling to the ground and writhing in agony after she hit a 3-pointer. She was expected to have an MRI Monday morning.