NEW YORK – Devereaux Peters has a simple explanation for her success lately: She’s been able to stay out of foul trouble.
Peters had 18 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and four steals to help No. 2 Notre Dame beat St. John’s 71-56 on Saturday – the Fighting Irish’s 18th straight victory.
“I think the biggest difference is I’ve been in the game,” Peters said. “You have more opportunities to score and rebound. I do what they need me to do.”
Peters had a career-high 16 rebounds in the Irish’s 28-point blowout of No. 7 Tennessee on Monday night.
“Dev is great,” said Skylar Diggins, who led Notre Dame with 24 points. “She’s long, athletic. She’s relentless on the boards. We need Dev in the game.”
Trailing 6-1 early on, Notre Dame (21-1, 8-0 Big East) went on a 19-2 run to take an early 12-point lead. Peters had six points during the burst and Diggins had the final eight, including a pretty floater down the lane that made it 20-8 with 11:16 left in the half.
St. John’s scored the next eight points, including two three-pointers by Tesia Harris, to cut it to a four-point game. That’s as close as the Red Storm (13-8, 5-3) would get as Notre Dame put it away with a 14-0 spurt.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first half,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought we were playing their pace, it lulled us. When we started rebounding and running we looked like ourselves.”
Notre Dame dominated the glass, outrebounding St. John’s 49-29 – including a whopping 26-8 advantage in the first half.
Diggins has been the catalyst for the Irish all season. During the decisive run she scored four points and had two assists on beautiful lookaway passes to Natalie Achonwa. Later in the first half, with her team up 18 points, the junior guard blocked a shot on one end, ran the floor and caught a long outlet from Peters for a lay-in.
Even when she made a rare mistake, she quickly made up for it. On one sequence, the preseason All-American turned the ball over, but hustled back and blocked a shot on the other end. She moved into 11th place on the school’s all-time scoring list, passing assistant coach and mentor Niele Ivey.
“I didn’t know that,” Diggins said smiling. “Don’t tell her.”
The Irish will be back in the Tri-State area Tuesday night when they play No. 11 Rutgers. Notre Dame will fly back to South Bend and return Monday because of classes.
“Those academic institutions, they like us to get to class,” McGraw said. “We’ll be home by 5 p.m. Sometimes when you sit around the hotel you get a little bored. It’s good for us to get back home.”
Notre Dame has won 21 of the 24 games between the teams, although the Red Storm had won the previous three at home, including upsetting the then-No. 4 Irish in 2010.
Despite Saturday’s performance, St. John’s has been playing well over the last month. The Red Storm had won six of their previous seven games since getting everyone healthy, including victories over then-No. 7 Rutgers and then-No. 14 Louisville.
“I like where our team is right now,” St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “To come back here and not quit. We could have come out and it really could have gotten ugly. They showed that they are a really good basketball team.”
Trailing 43-23 at the half, the Red Storm tried to battle back. They started the second half with a 13-4 run to cut the deficit to 11, but Diggins calmly restored order for the Irish – who scored eight of the next 10 points to seal the win.
“I feel like we played the best team in the country,” Barnes Arico said. “They have a lot of weapons, are extremely well coached, really a great team.”
Da’Shena Stevens and Shenneika Smith each scored 10 points to lead St. John’s.