Achonwa leads No. 4 Irish women past No. 10 PSUNotre Dame forward Taya Reimer, left, battles for the ball with Penn State forward Talia East (5) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/John Beale)
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- After building a double-digit lead in the first half, Notre Dame didn't let Penn State get close in the final 20 minutes.
Natalie Achonwa had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish in a 77-67 victory over the No. 10 Lady Lions on Wednesday night in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game.
Jewell Loyd scored 17 points, Kayla McBride had 13 and Taya Reimer 12 for Notre Dame (7-0), which led by 14 points at halftime. Penn State got no closer than nine in the second half.
''I thought Natalie Achonwa had a great second half and I thought Jewell and K Mac's (McBride's) defense on Maggie Lucas was the key to the game,'' Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.
Ariel Edwards scored 18 points for the Lady Lions (5-2). Dara Taylor added 14 points and Talia East 12.
It was the first time McGraw coached against Penn State's Coquese Washington, who played point guard for Notre Dame in the early 1990s and then was a Fighting Irish assistant coach.
''Leading into this game, I was really emotional about it,'' Washington said. ''Then this afternoon getting dressed for the game, I decided to take the advice I give our players all the time - embrace and enjoy these moments.''
McGraw's emotions were just the opposite.
''I didn't like it at all. It was a hard game that way,'' she said.
However, the 27th-year head coach was full of praise for her former player.
''She's the best young coach in the country right now and when a couple people retire, I think she's going to be the one that people look to,'' McGraw said.
Penn State leading scorer Maggie Lucas, who came in averaging 22.2 points per game, was held to just seven points on 1-for-8 shooting.
On this night, Notre Dame's rebounding prowess, in a game in which neither team shot the ball particularly well, was the difference. The Fighting Irish outrebounded the Lady Lions 44-36, including 19 at the offensive end.
''It killed us. It absolutely killed us,'' Washington said. ''If we could cut that in half we would probably have had a chance. That is one of the things they do well. This isn't an aberration.''
Achonwa said that's an always an emphasis for Notre Dame, which also got 10 rebounds from Taya Reimer.
''I think one of our major keys to every game is rebounding,'' Achonwa said. ''We did grab a couple of offensive rebounds, but I think it was also because we were missing a lot so we kind of put ourselves in position to rebound.''