Achonwa key in Irish win over Cardinals

February 12, 2013 - 12:12pm
Natalie Achonwa posted 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead Notre Dame past Louisville. (Photo by Mike Bennett/Lighthouse Imaging)

Natalie Achonwa posted 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead Notre Dame past Louisville. (Photo by Mike Bennett/Lighthouse Imaging)

Notre Dame 93, Louisville 64

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – No. 2 Notre Dame’s ability to get the ball inside to one of its most improved post players proved too hard for No. 10 Louisville to stop, as two of the top teams not only in the Big East, but in the country battled on Monday night. 

Junior Natalie Achonwa had a “double double” - 22 points and 12 rebounds – to lead five Irish players in double figures as Notre Dame (23-1, 11-0 Big East) won its 18th straight 93-64 before 8,368 fans at Purcell Pavilion.

Achonwa’s game-high 12 rebounds were key in Notre Dame’s 44-28 advantage on the boards. The Irish held a 16-9 advantage on the offensive boards that led to 21 second chance points.

“Coach (McGraw) challenged me the last couple of days and told me that I needed to be a little more physical,” Achonwa said.

Achonwa took a hard spill driving to the basket late in the second half and had several ice bags on her arms and legs during the postgame press conference.

“She’s being a beast inside right now,” McGraw said of Achonwa. “She is really going to be the feature of the scouting reports in the next couple of games because she’s playing so well right now and she is so hard to guard. And she scores in so many ways.”

McGraw said the key for Achonwa’s success is her ability to stay out of foul trouble. “She is staying in the game more defensively,” she said. “She is a bigger piece to the puzzle this year and we are looking to get her the ball more and she is getting more shots.”

Skylar Diggins had 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and seven assists while committing just three turnovers.

“She’s just a special player, there is no question about it,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of Diggins. “She played a very, very good game.”

Kayla McBride 15 points and four assists, Jewell Loyd 12 points, nine rebounds and Ariel Braker 10 points and six rebounds for the Irish.

Bria Smith led Louisville (20-5, 12-2 Big East) with 18 points, five assists and four rebounds while Antonia Slaughter added 16 points and Shoni Schimmel 13 points and five rebounds as the Cardinals saw their six-game winning streak come to an end.

“I thought that we came out, we attacked and we went right at them inside,” Walz said. “We got to the line seven times and I thought we attacked and went hard to the basket. Somehow, they got to the line 26 times.  Stuff happens, I guess. But I thought our kids went really hard at the basket. And it is what it is.”

The Cardinals trailed 45-35 at half before making a run early in the second half, cutting the margin to 47-40 on Smith’s basket with 17:26 to play.

But the Irish responded with a 15-2 run to push the margin to 62-42 with 13:58 to play.

“We were just unfocused on defense,” Smith said. “They went on their runs and we didn’t know exactly what we were doing. We have a plan to go by, but we just didn’t execute well on defense.”

LOUISVILLE (20-5, 8-3) – Sara Hammond 3-13 0-0 6, Sheronne Vails 1-4 1-2 3, Antonita Slaughter 7-11 0-0 16, Bria Smith 8-12 2-5 18, Shoni Schimmel 5-12 0-0 13, Shelby Harper 0-1 0-0 0, Cortnee Walton 0-0 0-0 0, Megan Deines 0-0 0-0 0, Jude Schimmel 3-9 0-0 8. TOTALS – 27-62 3-7 64.

NOTRE DAME (23-1, 11-0) – Natalie Achonwa 8-11 6-8 22, Ariel Braker 5-5 0-0 10, Skylar Diggins 9-13 1-3 21, Kayla McBride 4-8 6-6 15, Jewell Loyd 3-8 5-6 12, Whitney Holloway 0-0 1-2 1, Madison Cable 2-6 0-0 5, Michaela Mabrey 2-7 0-0 5, Hannah Huffman 0-0 0-0 0, Markisha Wright 1-2 0-0 2. TOTALS – 34-60 19-26 93.

Halftime Score – Notre Dame 45, Louisville 35. Three-Point Field Goals – Louisville 7-18 (S. Schimmel 3-7, Slaughter 2-4, J. Schimmel 2-7). Notre Dame 6-17 (Diggins 2-4, Mabrey 1-6, Cable 1-3, McBride 1-3, Loyd 1-1). Rebounds – Louisville 23 (S. Schimmel 5), Notre Dame 44 (Achonwa 12). Assists – Louisville 17 (Smith 5), Notre Dame 25 (Diggins 7). Steals – Louisville 9 (S. Schimmel 3), Notre Dame 11 (Diggins 4). Blocked Shots – Louisville 2 (J. Schimmel, Smith), Notre Dame 3 (Achonwa 1, Diggins 1, McBride 1). Turnovers – Louisville 19, Notre Dame 19. Fouls (Fouled out) – Louisville 18 (none), Notre Dame 8 (none). Technical Fouls -- none. Officials – Eric Brewton, Brian Enterline, Kathy Lynch. A – 8,368.