SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Syracuse could do nothing to slow second-ranked Notre Dame until it trailed by more than 30.
Coach Quentin Hillsman said the way the Fighting Irish dominated the Orange from the start shows just how big the gap is between the elite few teams in women's college basketball team and good teams.
"You look at the difference between No. 2 in the country and we're No. 27 in the country. It's a big gap, obviously," he said. "We've got to find ways to narrow those gaps when you're a team playing in a power conference, because we aspire to win championships."
The Orange (17, 7, 6-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) didn't look like a team close to challenging the Irish any time soon in losing 101-64 on Sunday, falling to 2-27 against the Irish. Jewell Loyd score 23 points and Kayla McBride added 18 to pace the Irish.
Hillsman said he believes the Irish might be better this year without Skylar Diggins, who graduated after leading the Irish to three straight Final Fours, including two title games.
"I thought last year with Skylar, some of the players would let her do her thing and kind of step to the side and let her shine. And she did, nothing against her. She really dominated the game," he said. "I think now with Skylar being gone they're so balanced. It's so hard to prepare for a team that has that kind of balance and can score from all sports on the floor."
Notre Dame took control from the start, beating the Syracuse zone inside and outside, jumping to a 14-2 lead, extending it to 29-10 midway through the first half and 61-28 at halftime, their most points in the first half this season. The Irish shot 61 percent in the first half, holding the Orange to 31 percent shooting, and outscoring Syracuse 20-8 inside.
"I thought it was one of the best halves we've had, and we've had some good ones," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We shot the ball well, we handled the press well, I was most pleased defensively."
Notre Dame also matched its season-high with 10 3-pointers, hitting seven of its first nine, while holding the Orange to five, two below their average. The Irish also forced 24 turnovers.