Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins was nowhere near her best against
UCLA. Fortunately for the Fighting Irish, her teammates did more
than enough to beat the Bruins.
Freshman Jewell Loyd had 19 points, seven rebounds and five
assists, Kayla McBride scored 18 points, and No. 5 Notre Dame
wasn’t threatened in the second half in beating the 19th-ranked
Bruins 76-64 on Friday.
Diggins had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists, but shot 5
of 17 and committed four turnovers.
Natalie Achonwa had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Fighting
Irish (4-0), who shot 29 of 60 (48.3 percent) to UCLA’s 24 of 61
”I was so pleased with how the game went because we hit
adversity early,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ”It wasn’t
easy, nothing was easy for us today. As ugly as it was, it was
great for a young team to come of age.”
Regarding Diggins, a first-team All-American as a junior last
season, McGraw acknowledged the fact that it wasn’t one of her
”No, she didn’t (play at her usual level),” McGraw said. ”She
feels the burden of being the one. When Jewell and Kayla played the
way they did, it allowed her to relax.”
McBride sat out a little more than three minutes early on after
injuring her right ankle. After being re-taped, she came back into
the game and didn’t show any ill effects.
”It’s OK,” she said of her ankle. ”The first time I came back
in, it was a little stiff. We had a lot of poise down the stretch.
They’re a tough team, they played defense to the last second.”
Loyd, who shot 8 of 12 including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, made
three straight baskets midway through the first half to cap a 15-2
run that put the Irish ahead for good.
Achonwa scored four points during an 8-2 run to start the second
half, giving the Irish a 44-31 lead. UCLA drew within eight on two
straight baskets by Markel Walker, but that was as close as the
Bruins would get. Notre Dame then went on another 8-2 spurt for a
57-43 advantage with 10 1/2 minutes left.
Walker had 21 points and nine rebounds and Alyssia Brewer scored
10 points for the Bruins (2-1), who played without junior point
guard Thea Lemberger, sidelined by a sprained left knee. Lemberger,
listed as day-to-day, had 18 points and no turnovers in 35 minutes
to lead the Bruins to an 86-80 victory at then-No. 11 Oklahoma on
”It definitely affected us,” UCLA coach Cori Close said
regarding Lemberger’s absence. ”Thea is really a smart player. She
plays with great purpose. We’re thankful we’re getting her back
”We’re going to learn from this. We play teams like Notre Dame
because that’s what we’re building to become. We did force them
into things, we just didn’t always capitalize.”
As far as Diggins was concerned, Close said: ”I credit Mariah
(Williams), Markel (Walker) and our other perimeter defenders. I’m
proud of our team for defending Skylar.”
UCLA took a 6-0 lead and extended it to 10-3, prompting a Notre
Dame timeout. The Irish responded by scoring the next seven points
to forge a tie.
Notre Dame’s 15-2 run gave the Irish a 25-17 lead, and a
3-pointer by McBride and a layup by Diggins made it 36-25 before
the Bruins scored the last four points of the first half to draw
The Irish went 35-4 last season, but became just the third team
to lose back-to-back NCAA championship games when Baylor beat them
80-61 to win the title.
UCLA entered with a 5-1 record over Notre Dame at Pauley
Pavilion. The Bruins, 9-5 overall in the series, beat the Irish
86-83 in double overtime two years ago in South Bend, Ind.
Many in the announced crowd of 3,046 at Pauley Pavilion wore
green in supporting the Irish. The top-ranked Notre Dame football
team (11-0) also is in town to face Southern California on
Saturday. A victory will put the Irish in the BCS title game in