No. 2 Notre Dame 69, Seton Hall 49
With her team struggling to put away Seton Hall, Notre Dame's Ariel Braker stepped up.
Braker matched her career high with 15 points and Natalie Achonwa added 11 points and nine rebounds to help No. 2 Notre Dame beat Seton Hall 69-49 on Saturday for the Irish's 17th straight victory.
Braker keyed a second half spurt that turned an eight-point game into a rout.
''Coming out of halftime we needed to come out with defensive intensity,'' said Braker, who made five of her six shots and all five of her free throws. ''When our defense is playing well it really sparks our offense and that's what happened. We got a couple of easy shots. Skylar (Diggins) found me on a couple easy baskets.''
Braker has been struggling with knee issues all season since having offseason surgery on her left knee.
''She played really well and had a great practice, her knee felt good,'' Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ''We looked for her. I was really pleased with her game.''
Notre Dame (22-1, 10-0 Big East) was a little out of sync early on. The Irish traveled to the area a night earlier than they had planned because of the incoming snowstorm.
''We got out here OK, but had to leave at midnight to do it,'' McGraw said. ''We had been sitting around all day and we looked a little sluggish in practice. We gritted it out when we had to.''
Even with the 20-point loss, it was a much better effort for Seton Hall then the last few meetings with the Irish. Last season the Pirates (8-15, 3-7) trailed 49-16 at the half and never got back in the game, losing 74-36.
This time, hot shooting kept them in it for 20 minutes. The Irish held a 35-28 lead at the half after scoring 17 of the first 21 points of the game. Seton Hall hit five 3s in the first half to keep it close.
Notre Dame scored four quick points to start the second half to boost its lead back to double figures, but Seton Hall closed to 41-33 with five straight points by Morris.
That's as close as they'd get as Notre Dame scored 12 of the next 14 points to put the game away, including six by Braker.
''We were encouraged at the half,'' said Brittany Morris, who scored 16 points to lead Seton Hall. ''We had a little breakdown in the second half and a team like that you can't break down when they go on a run.''
The Irish return home to face No. 11 Louisville on Monday night.
The win was the 117th for the senior class of Kaila Turner and Diggins matching them with the group that graduated last year for the most in school history. Turner was wearing a sling on her left shoulder and didn't play. She injured the elbow against Villanova.
''She tore a tendon and we hope to get her back for the Big East tournament,'' McGraw said.
Despite the winter storm that hit the area, there were 2,600 fans at the game - Seton Hall's biggest crowd of the season. It was the Play4Kay game in honor of former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow.
''She was one of the most respected coaches in the game and a mentor. She transcended all the groups and cliques in our game,'' Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan said. ''There's not a coach in our country who didn't have a high regard for her.''
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