NOTRE DAME — Natalie Achonwa had 22 points and 12 rebounds, Skylar Diggins added 21 points and seven assists and second-ranked Notre Dame beat No. 10 Louisville 93-64 Monday night, the 18th straight victory for the Fighting Irish.
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. 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.
Kayla McBride added 15 points, Jewell Loyd 12 and Ariel Braker 10 for the Irish. Bria Smith led the Cardinals with 18 points, Antonita Slaughter had 16 and Shoni Schimmel had 13.
Although the game wasn’t as exciting as the men’s game, the crowd of 8,368 still got into the game, letting out a loud cheer when Jewell Loyd scored on a fastbreak layup to give the Irish an 85-60 lead and again when Madison Cable hit a 3-pointer to give the Irish a 90-62 advantage.
The win marked just the fourth time in 10 tries the home team has won in the series. The Irish outrebounded the Cardinals 44-23 and outscored them inside 44-34.
It looked early in the second half the Cardinals might be able to give the Irish a game. Smith scored on a fastbreak layup past Diggins to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 47-40. But after Notre Dame opened the second half missing its first three shots, Braker hit a jumper to spark a 10-0 run by the Irish, capped by three straight baskets inside. It started with a rebound basket by Loyd and then back-to-back layups by Kayla McBride and Diggins to open a 57-40 lead.
The Irish extended the lead to 62-42 moments later on a basket inside by Achonwa.
Louisville coach Jeff Walz was unhappy about the officiating at times, complaining when a foul against Achonwa was overturned and changed into a traveling call and again when Jude Schimmel was called for a foul with 0.1 seconds left in the first half when Diggins attempted a 25-foot running shot as she tried to beat the buzzer. “Danielle, welcome to Notre Dame,” a frustrated Walz yelled toward Big East associate commissioner Danielle Donehew at the end of the court.
The Irish got going quickly in the game as Diggins scored six points as Notre Dame jumped to a 9-2 lead. The Irish extended the lead to 18-7 when Diggins scored on a fastbreak layup after stealing the ball from Shoni Schimmel. But the Cardinals responded with an 8-0 run moments later, cutting the lead to 22-19 when Slaughter scored rebounding her own miss. The Irish answered with an 11-1 run, opening a 37-22 lead. The Irish led 45-35 at halftime.