Skylar Diggins scored 14 points to lead a balanced offense as the third-ranked Fighting Irish cruised to a 90-38 victory over Central Florida on Tuesday night. Notre Dame had 18 steals while forcing 25 turnovers.
“I was really pleased with the way we came out, with the intensity,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “Coming off a big win over Kentucky (on Sunday), I worried about being a little complacent, and we came out and played hard. I was really, really happy, pretty much throughout the game.”
Kaila Turner had 13 points, Natalie Novosel and Natalie Achonwa added 12 each and Devereaux Peters and Kayla McBride each scored 11 for Notre Dame (11-1).
The Irish, who reached 90 points for the fifth time this season, shot 52 percent from the field and finished with a 46-28 rebounding advantage.
Aisha Patrick had 10 points to lead the Knights (5-6), who shot just 28 percent from the field.
Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory, who added seven points and added three assists, said her depth showed against Central Florida.
“Everybody’s learning from each other and growing and keeping the energy coming off the bench,” Mallory said. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”
Notre Dame’s pressure defense forced Central Florida into 25 turnovers, 18 of which were steals.
The Irish led 51-16 at the break, their biggest lead of the opening 20 minutes. It was the fourth time this season they scored at least 50 in the first half.
Notre Dame continued to stretch the lead, going ahead by 52 midway through the second half and again with 1:16 left.
The Irish’s defensive intensity was something Central Florida couldn’t really prepare for, according to Knights coach Joi Williams.
“It’s very tough,” Williams said. “You can’t really simulate that. You have a team of practice players and this time of year everybody’s going home for Christmas so it’s tough to get that.”
Notre Dame’s advantage in rebounding was evident on the offensive end with 22 offensive rebounds. Achonwa led the Irish with eight rebounds and credited her time spent trying to learn from Peters on how to better position herself for rebounds.
“I’ve been trying to implement that in practice a little bit more and trying to get after the rebounds in practice so that it just comes in the game,” Achonwa said.
The Irish started pulling away from the start and led 31-5 after nine minutes. The Knights didn’t reach double digit points until they pulled to 41-11 with 5:49 remaining in the half.
The Knights committed 17 turnovers in the first half, 12 of which were steals by Notre Dame.
Williams called the Irish’s ability to rebound on the offensive end “unbelievable.”
“One thing that we talked about coming in was really giving them one opportunity and you can’t give a great team like that more than one because they’ll make you pay,” Williams said.
The Irish scored 21 points on second-chance attempts.