WASHINGTON – What a strange first five minutes it was. The game was essentially played on one end of the court. Notre Dame never seemed to have the ball. Georgetown kept grabbing offensive rebound after offensive rebound.
And only had two points to show for it.
It’s a bit dicey to let the No. 2 team in the country off the hook like that, and the Hoyas paid the price. Once the Irish got going, they rolled to a 21-point halftime lead and beat No. 18 Georgetown 80-60 Tuesday night.
“We were lucky,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We were just really lucky.”
To be fair, the Irish were also pretty good over the final 35 minutes. Skyler Diggins finished with 22 points, Natalie Novosel added 21, and Kayla McBride had 16 for Notre Dame (16-1, 4-0 Big East), while Brittany Mallory’s defense made Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers a nonfactor, holding the conference’s leading scorer to 13 points on 3 for 18 shooting.
The Irish also went 28 for 32 from the free throw line as they avoided a post-UConn letdown. Notre Dame ended Connecticut’s 57-game Big East regular season winning streak Saturday and is now 5-1 against teams ranked in the Top 25.
The Irish have won 13 straight, their only loss coming at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20.
Rogers came into the game averaging 20.1 points, but she had two fouls before the game was eight minutes old and didn’t score in the first half.
“We tried to trap her a little bit, and I thought we were smart in that,” McGraw said. “We made her work hard for her shots.”
Rodgers went 2 for 11 from three-point range and committed five turnovers for the Hoyas (13-4, 2-2), who have been as hot-and-cold in big games as their 2-4 record vs. ranked teams suggests. Rodgers has struggled in back-to-back games, going went 4 for 19 in a win over South Florida on Saturday.
“Sometimes when you live and die by the jump shot, that’s how it goes,” Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “But she’s got to understand she’s a better player than that. She can put it on the floor, she can get to the basket, but when your game is the three-point shooter and that’s what she’s known for, you just have a tendency to going back to doing what you do.”
Notre Dame won despite committing 18 turnovers and taking 28 fewer shots than Georgetown, a statistical fluke created by the Hoyas’ persistence on the offensive boards – and their inability to capitalize on it. They had seven rebounds in those infamous first five minutes alone, but they were trailing 4-2 because they were 1 for 11 from the field.
Georgetown had 15 offensive rebounds at halftime – and only four second-chance points. The Hoyas had also forced eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes – but didn’t convert them into a single point.
The Irish led 37-16 at the break and held on despite foul trouble. Diggins picked up her fourth with 11:11 to play, and Mallory got her fourth with 10 minutes remaining.
Rodgers’ first three-pointer capped a 7-0 run that cut Notre Dame’s lead to 48-37 with 11 minutes left, and she connected again to make the score 58-48 with 7:01 to go.
But the Irish responded each time, closing with a 18-8 run, and kept the Hoyas at bay at the free throw line, making 16 of 18 attempts in the second half.
“Teams in the Big East are too good to get buried by 21 at the half,” Williams-Flournoy said. “It’s just too hard to come back.”