No. 5 Notre Dame rolls past Utah State 109-70

The Associated Press
No. 5 Notre Dame rolls past Utah State 109-70
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Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, center, heads up court as Utah State guards Devyn Christiansen, right, and Makenlee Williams give chase during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday Dec. 8, 2012 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Natalie Achonwa and Markisha Wright dominated inside, and Skylar Diggins got everyone involved.

It was that kind of day for No. 5 Notre Dame.

Achonwa tied a career high with 23 points and also had 12 rebounds to help the Fighting Irish rout Utah State 109-70 on Saturday.

Wright added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Diggins finished with 12 points with 10 assists. It was the first time in seven years that three Irish women recorded double-doubles.

Achonwa credited Diggins' ability to break the Utah State press for many of her easy baskets.

''I think we have a point guard that wants to push the tempo, and we play in a program that looks to push the tempo,'' Achonwa said. ''I think us posts need to make sure we keep up. That makes it a lot easier to beat the press.''

Notre Dame (6-1) controlled the paint, with Achonwa and her teammates getting easy layups in the low post off feeds from the perimeter, both on the break and in half-court sets.

In an attempt to stop those easy baskets, Utah State (2-7) tried collapsing on the low post, but often was whistled for fouls. Aggies guard Jenna Johnson fouled out just three minutes into the second half.

''Obviously there was a skill difference and a size difference and a physical difference today, and as the game wore on it became more and more evident,'' Utah State coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. ''Achonwa was in the right place at the right time, and their guards got her easy shots.''

Achonwa was 10 for 13 from the field and made each of her three foul shots. Notre Dame shot 69.4 percent (25 for 36) while building a 66-49 halftime lead, and finished at 52 percent for the game.

Playing with many of its reserves, Notre Dame outscored Utah State 28-8 over the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Utah State started the game aggressively, pursuing a fast tempo and forcing early turnovers with its press. The Aggies were 7 for 14 from 3-point range in the first half, but only 1 for 12 in the second half.

''Utah State played extremely well in the first half,'' Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. ''We had a complete breakdown defensively in the first half. We had absolutely no desire to guard. I think we responded a little better in the second half. We played better defense.''

Devyn Christiansen scored 21 for the Aggies.

Notre Dame, coming off its first loss of the season Wednesday to No. 3 Baylor, outrebounded Utah State 56-27 and outscored the Aggies in the paint 64-24.

Irish guard Kayla McBride, who scored eight points, left with an injured right ankle with 3:43 left in the first half. McGraw said her status was uncertain, and she hoped McBride will be ready for their trip to Las Vegas to face Alabama A&M on Dec. 19 in the opening round of the World Vision Classic.