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Achonwa's leads Notre Dame in victorious ACC debut

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm •  Published: January 5, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Less than seven minutes in against No. 2 Notre Dame, Clemson was whistled for its sixth foul, and coach Audra Smith implored her team to ease off.

"We don't have enough people," Smith said after Charmaine Tay and Nikki Dixon each had collected two fouls.

With just eight players available, the Tigers held close to the Irish for a half, but attrition eventually took its toll in Notre Dame's 71-51 inaugural ACC win on Sunday.

Dixon, the Tigers' leading scorer, had averaged 19.7 points in her last three games, but picked up her fourth foul on Jewell Loyd's offensive putback early in the second half and sat for nearly eight minutes. Dixon then fouled out with 5:36 to play and finished with just five points.

"I thought fatigue and foul trouble killed us in the second half," Smith said. "We ended up putting them on the line 27 times and they made 19 of those free throws, and we lose by 20, so that was huge."

Up by just four points at halftime on Clemson, the Irish used a 17-4 run out of the break to take control in their ACC debut, a 71-51 win over the Tigers on Sunday.

Clemson hit just one of its first eight shots in the second half, and Loyd had a three-point play and a 3-pointer during the decisive Irish run.

"I was just trying to get it done on defense," said Loyd, who scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half. "We just weren't making shots. Maybe we were just trying to force it, but we'll make those shots with our eyes closed tomorrow."

After shooting just 28 percent in the first half, Notre Dame shot it at a 63 percent clip in the second half.

Natalie Achonwa had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Kayla McBride added 16 points for the Irish (13-0, 1-0 ACC) to extend their regular-season winning streak to 36 games, and home winning streak to 19.

When the Irish needed a basket, they looked to Achonwa down low. Notre Dame finished with 42 points in the paint.

"I thought (Achonwa) really came ready to play," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "She was the only one that I thought had a lot of energy and was really on her game."

Kelly Gramlich led Clemson with 13 points. The Tigers (8-7, 0-1) lost for the fourth time in their last six games after winning five straight. They also learned they would have to spend an extra day in South Bend due to cancelled travel plans caused by heavy snow in the area.

Nikki Dixon averaged 19.7 points in Clemson's last three games, but she picked up her fourth foul on a Loyd offensive putback early in the second half and sat for nearly eight minutes. Dixon then fouled out with 5:36 to play and finished with just five points.

That fifth foul led to a McBride three-point play that pushed Notre Dame's lead to 16 points.


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