SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Second-ranked Notre Dame got its inside game going in the second half and overwhelmed No. 10 Louisville.
The Fighting Irish outrebounded the Cardinals 26-8 in the second half and outscored them 26-10 in the paint in the final 20 minutes en route to a 93-64 victory Monday night, the 18th straight win for Notre Dame. Natalie Achonwa led the Irish with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
"We just really got the transition game going," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We had a great rebounding effort in the second half. Defensively tightened up quite a bit. Shot the ball well. We really did everything we absolutely wanted to do."
Louisville managed to cut Notre Dame's lead to seven points early in the second half, but the Irish quickly responded with a 10-0 run and the Cardinals didn't threaten again. Playing on the same court where the two schools' men's teams played a five overtime game two nights earlier, the women's game never came close to matching that intensity as the Irish dominated most of the way.
Notre Dame (23-1, 11-0 Big East) improved to 7-1 against ranked opponents this season, its only loss coming against No. 1 Baylor in December. It also was the 118th victory for the senior class, the most in school history. McGraw was asked if that's what she expected when she recruited Skylar Diggins, who finished with 21 points and seven assists.
"I didn't think we'd lose any," McGraw joked. "I'm a little disappointed."
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for Louisville (20-5, 8-3), its second longest Big East winning streak since joining the league in 2005-06.
Bria Smith, who led the Cardinals with 18 points, blamed Louisville's defensive play.
"''We were just unfocused on defense. They went on their runs and we didn't know exactly what we were doing," she said. "I mean we have a play to go by. We just didn't execute well."