No. 2 Notre Dame 81, Akron 61
With its offense struggling to get in synch, No. 2 Notre Dame
turned up its defensive to put away Akron.
Skylar Diggins scored 21 points and the Irish forced 46
turnovers to beat the Zips 81-61 on Friday night in the opening
round of the preseason WNIT. Notre Dame will host Indiana State on
Sunday in the second round.
“First win usually comes with some first game jitters,” Notre
Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “That was a little unexpected with
our veteran team. I though we did some good things. We forced a lot
of turnovers which was one of our goals, but I was disappointed in
The pesky Zips outrebounded the Irish 44-38.
With the Irish struggling on offense, Diggins took over.
“We lost the last (NCAA championship) game last year,” she said.
“Maybe we were trying to win the championship game tonight, because
we were playing tight.”
Kayla McBride added 15 points and Natalie Novosel had 13 for
Notre Dame, which committed 27 turnovers.
“I was concerned at halftime about our offensive efficiency
because we had forced 26 turnovers and we were only ahead by 14,”
McGraw said. “I think there were times we looked too hard to find
the open man. There were times when we just should have gone ahead
and shot the ball.”
Rachel Tecca had 13 points and Carly Young added 10 for the
“We knew coming in that to stay in the game, we would have to
play an almost perfect game,” Zip head coach Jodi Kest. “Obviously,
46 turnovers is not close to that. It’s very hard to simulate the
Notre Dame pressure in practice. They are so long, and so quick.
There is a reason why they are No. 2 and when they get the rest of
their players back, they could really be a great team.”
Notre Dame forced five turnovers on the first six Zip trips down
the floor but some lackadaisical play allowed Akron to stay in the
game early. The Irish kept the pressure on the experienced Zips, a
team that returned 10 letter winners and four starters from last
year, and forced 11 turnovers in the first eight minutes to
establish an Irish 17-12 edge at the 11:46 mark. The turnovers
continued and the Irish ran off a 12-1 run over the next five
minutes for a 29-13 edge with seven minutes remaining in the first
Akron closed back to within nine, 35-26 on two free throws by
Natasha Williams with 3:15 remaining but the Irish tightened up the
defense and led at halftime, 44-30. Diggins led all scorers with 14
while Williams led the Zips with seven. Akron led in rebounds at
It was more of the same in the second half. A 3-pointer by Kayla
McBride was followed by a layup by Brittany Mallory to set the
score at 53-34 with 15:54 remaining and Notre Dame held on from
there. They established their largest lead, 25, twice midway
through the second half. The Zips closed the gap to 16, 65-49 with
seven minutes to go but were unable to mount a serious challenge