SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Notre Dame guards Skylar Diggins and Brittany Mallory are competing to see who can get the most steals in the season.
And while coach Muffet McGraw didn’t want to reveal what the prize was, she could not have been happier with both players’ performance in Notre Dame’s 95-42 victory over Marquette in the Big East opener for both teams.
The No. 3-ranked Irish (8-1, 1-0) beat the Golden Eagles (5-5, 0-1) by forcing 37 turnovers, 18 of which were steals. Diggins had six of those steals and Mallory two. For the season, Diggins leads the competition 32-26.
“I gotta beat Brittany,” Diggins said. “We take that (steal competition) very seriously. But really, our defensive mindset is pretty much that you don’t be the one that messes up so we put a lot of effort into it.”
Kayla McBride led Notre Dame with 19 points. Diggins added 17 points, and Natalie Novosel and Mallory each had 11. Devereaux Peters had 10 rebounds to go with nine points. Sarina Simmons led Marquette with 14.
Notre Dame was efficient with their turnovers, scoring 46 points. They were also able to pass the ball inside at will, scoring 52 points in the paint.
McGraw had an easy explanation for that.
“Our 3-point shooting showed up tonight,” she said of her team’s 7-for-13 effort from beyond the arc. “That opens up the paint for us.”
Marquette coach Terri Mitchell was visibly angry at her team’s showing.
“I’m going to remember this game for a long time,” she said. “I am completely embarrassed by our performance. I don’t expect anyone who puts on a Marquette uniform to perform the way we did. I know we are young, but this is unacceptable. I’m not happy in any way. I am very disappointed in the way that we did not fight tonight and had three games worth of turnovers.”
McGraw said that playing at top-ranked Baylor (a 94-81 loss on November 20) showed her team the things they needed to work on and that a lot of that improvement showed up against Marquette.
“This was the closest we have been all year to playing a perfect game,” she said. “We played hard for all 40 minutes, even when our bench players came in there was no let up.”
Notre Dame forced four early turnovers and used a 9-0 run to jump out to an early 11-3 edge at the 17:15 mark. The defensive intensity continued to pay dividends in the next six minutes, as the Irish forced another five turnovers and converted most of them into easy layups for a 29-12 lead.
Notre Dame had 15 points off turnovers in the first nine minutes. Notre Dame set up in the Marquette paint for the rest of the half and went into the intermission with a 51-23 lead.
Novosel and Diggins each had 11 at halftime while the Golden Eagles’ Simmons also had 11.
At the half, Notre Dame had 15 assists on 21 field goals. The Irish had forced 17 turnovers, including nine steals. Notre Dame shot 58 percent while holding Marquette to 36 percent in the first half.
Notre Dame forced the Golden Eagles into eight consecutive turnovers early in the second half, building the lead to 65-25.