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Irish ‘D’ stifles Panthers in rout

– Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw wanted a better defensive performance, and the Irish delivered – for a half, at least.

Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd scored 20 points apiece, and the second-ranked Irish clamped down on Pittsburgh in a 109-66 victory Thursday.

Notre Dame shot 61 percent (40 for 66) from the field and held Pitt to 37.1 percent shooting. The Panthers had only nine field goals in the first half.

“I thought the first half was very good,” McGraw said. “I thought late in the game we weren’t as interested defensively as we could have been.”

The Irish (16-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) were coming off a 79-72 victory at Virginia on Sunday.

“We felt we gave up too many points,” McGraw said. “Monday, we had a completely defensive practice, no offense whatsoever.”

It was a vastly different against the Panthers.

The Irish grabbed control with a tiebreaking 12-0 run early in the first half and led 54-25 at the break. The advantage ballooned to as many as 45 points in the second half.

Brianna Kiesel led the Panthers with 20 points. Marquel Davis added 10 points for Pitt (9-9, 1-3).

Notre Dame had five score in double figures. Natalie Achonwa had 14 points, reserve Michaela Mabrey scored 13 and Taya Reimer had 10. The Irish were dominant inside, outscoring Pitt 46-18 in the paint.

No. 3 DUKE 90, VIRGINIA 55: In Durham, N.C., Tricia Liston scored 21 points and tied her career high with 12 rebounds, leading Duke.

No. 6 MARYLAND 77, SYRACUSE 62: In College Park, Md., Alyssa Thomas had 19 points and 11 rebounds for her 14th double-double of the season, and Maryland extended its winning streak to 13 games.

No. 25 TEXAS A&M 67, No. 8 SOUTH CAROLINA 65, OT: In College Station, Texas, Karla Gilbert scored Texas A&M’s first two baskets of overtime, and Jordan Jones followed with a pivotal steal and layup to lead the Aggies.

No. 9 NORTH CAROLINA 78, CLEMSON 55: In Chapel Hill, N.C., Diamond DeShields scored 24 points to help North Carolina.

No. 12 TENNESSEE 67, MISSISSIPPI ST 63: In Starkville, Miss., Ariel Massengale and Bashaara Graves both scored 13 points as Tennessee survived.

No. 14 LSU 87, MISSOURI 68: In Columbia, Mo., Jeanne Kennedy scored 30 points to lead LSU.

No. 16 PENN STATE 66, OHIO STATE 42: In State College, Pa., Maggie Lucas scored 18 points to lead Penn State.

No. 18 NEBRASKA 88, MINNESOTA 85, OT: In Lincoln, Neb., Rachel Theriot scored a career-high 33 points to lead Nebraska.

Nebraska (13-3, 3-1 Big Ten Conference) trailed much of the game. Minnesota (12-6, 1-3) sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer by Rachel Banham that tied the score at 78.

No. 20 N.C. STATE 80, NO. 17 FLORIDA STATE 57: In Raleigh, N.C., Markeisha Gatling shot 8 for 8 from the field for 20 points as North Carolina State beat Florida State.

No. 24 VANDERBILT 80, MISSISSIPPI 74: In Oxford, Miss., Christina Foggie scored 28 points as Vanderbilt outlasted Ole Miss.