No. 2 Notre Dame routs No. 3 Duke
No. 2 started out a step faster than No. 3.
Then Notre Dame got in front of Duke by a couple more steps before the Fighting Irish moved into a jog and then sprinted to an 88-67 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
Notre Dame hasn’t lost a game all season and is the only undefeated team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Kayla McBride (23 points, 11 rebounds) notched her first double-double of the season. She got off the bus shooting.
“She’s got great a pull-up jumper that’s pretty hard to guard,” Duke senior Tricia Liston said.
“Kayla McBride, in my opinion, is the best point guard in the country,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “Our backcourt’s got to be No. 1 in the country.”
Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd is extremely athletic and was able to get into passing lanes to shutoff some of Duke’s shot attempts, Liston said.
“We just really, really played well offensively, and we shot the ball well,” McGraw said.
That was an understatement.
Notre Dame put up 55 shots from the field and made 61.8 percent of them against a Duke team that had been making ACC teams shoot the ball at a 34.4 percent clip. That was the best defense in league.
The Fighting Irish didn’t care about that.
“When you give up more than (27) points in transition offense, that’s a bit of a problem,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We never got the stops we needed — ever.”
Duke didn’t shoot the ball as well as it had been, either. The Blue Devils entered the game hitting half of what they put up but against Notre Dame shot 39.1 percent from the field.
The looks were there for Duke — good looks — but shots would rim out.
But that’s basketball. Every shot won’t go down, Liston said.
What hurt Duke against Notre Dame was the Fighting Irish’s knack for getting baskets when Duke made runs to close the scoring gap.
“It was like a dagger, a 3 when we were about to cut it under 10,” Liston said. “On the defensive side, we weren’t getting it done.”
It’s about getting stops, McCallie said.
“You’ve got to think about your defense more than you think about your offense,” McCallie said. “I still think we’ve got a lot of people thinking offense and wanting to produce offensively. As I was telling somebody in the locker room, if you score 16 but the other person scores 30, it’s not exactly a productive day. We’ve got to learn to value defense more.”
Duke’s interior defense against Notre Dame was soft. The Blue Devils gave up 40 points in the paint, and they got next to nothing from their bench — just three points compared to the 18 points McGraw got from her reserves.
McCallie said depth has become a concern for Duke. The Blue Devils are playing without senior All-American Chelsea Gray after she fractured her right kneecap in a win against Boston College on Jan. 12. Duke senior Chloé Wells is listed as day-to-day with a bruised shin, and McCallie said she wasn’t holding out much hope for her return anytime soon.
A combination of foul trouble and Notre Dame forward Natalie Achonwa (15 points, 9 rebounds) made it a tough day at work for Duke center Elizabeth Williams (2 points).
Williams took just four shots from the field and didn’t make any of them. McCallie said she wasn’t sure if Williams wasn’t demanding the ball or whether it was a matter of her teammates not looking for her down low.
There was a good bit of solo ball going on by Duke’s players, McCallie said.
Notre Dame wanted to play man-to-man defense in order to deny touches to Liston, who finished with 23 points.
Really nice ball movement was the thing for Notre Dame. Extra passes left the Fighting Irish with wide-open looks.
Notre Dame (21-0, 8-0 ACC) has beaten Duke (21-2, 8-1 ACC) five straight times. They last met in the regional final of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
McCallie doesn’t lose much at home to ACC teams. Duke’s loss to Notre Dame gave her a 46-3 record against ACC squads in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Fighting Irish snapped Duke’s 42-game home winning streak against ACC teams and broke the Blue Devils’ 11-game overall winning streak.