IOWA CITY, Iowa – Jewell Loyd scored 27 points and top-seeded Notre Dame blew past Tennessee-Martin 97-64 on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Kayla McBride had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Fighting Irish (32-1), who have won 27 straight heading into Tuesday's second-round matchup with either Iowa or Miami. Natalie Achonwa added 16 points.
Heather Butler scored 23 of her season-high 37 points in the first half to keep UT-Martin (19-15) in the game. But Notre Dame closed the first half on an 11-0 run and jumped ahead 60-33 with 17 minutes left.
Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins finished with just 10 points and six assists. But the Fighting Irish didn't need much from their star in the rout, outrebounding UT-Martin 49-14.
UT-Martin entered the tournament with one of the nation's highest scoring backcourts in the 5-foot-5 Butler and the 5-6 Jasmine Newsome, who combine for 45 points a game.
But Butler and Newsome never saw anything like these Fighting Irish in the Ohio Valley.
Notre Dame was up 10 in less than five minutes, hitting six of its first seven shots for a 14-4 lead.
But instead of folding, the Skyhawks put the ball in Butler's hands. She keyed a surprising 16-6 run, banking in a pair of 3s and hitting a layup off a nifty back cut to make a game of it.
Butler had 23 points in just 16 minutes – or 21 more than her counterpart Diggins to that point – and the Skyhawks got as close as 38-31.
But Diggins had the help that Butler could have used.
Loyd and Achonwa combined for 31 first-half points, and Notre Dame's closing run made it an 18-point game at halftime.
The Fighting Irish then scored 11 of the next 13 points to jump ahead 60-33.
UT-Martin was winless in three games this season against teams that earned a No. 1 seed for the tournament. The Skyhawks lost to Baylor 82-67 and Stanford 92-68 on back-to-back days in November.
But while the Bears, Cardinal and top-seeded UConn all got to open the NCAA tournament at home, Notre Dame was shipped out to Iowa City.
Although Butler made the Fighting Irish nervous for about 20 minutes, the travel certainly wasn't a factor in the tournament opener.
Newsome was held to 15 points.