SOUTH BEND – Skylar Diggins scored 21 points to lead No. 2 Notre Dame to a sloppy 81-61 win over Akron in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT on Friday night.
Kayla McBride added 15 and Natalie Novosel had 13 for the Irish, who committed 26 turnovers. Devereaux Peters and Markisha Wright each added 10 points.
Notre Dame used an overpowering defense to force the Zips into 46 turnovers, including 26 in the first half.
Rachel Tecca scored 13 for the Zips and added eight rebounds while Carly Young added 10 points in a game that saw the smaller Zips outrebound the Irish, 43-35.
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 four starters from last year, and forced 11 turnovers in the first eight minutes to establish a 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 lead with 7 minutes remaining in the first half
Akron closed back to within 35-26 on two free throws by Natasha Williams with 3:15 remaining but the Irish tightened up the defense and led by 14 at the half.
Notre Dame extended the lead in the second half on a 3-pointer by McBride and a layup by Brittany Mallory that made it 53-34 with 15:54 left. The Zips closed a 25-point deficit to 16 with 7 minutes left but could get no closer.