No. 19 UCLA did a terrific job defending Notre Dame star Skylar
Diggins on Friday. But the absence of point guard Thea Lemberger
and outstanding performances by a pair of Diggins’ teammates were
too much for the Bruins to overcome.
Freshman Jewell Loyd had 19 points, seven rebounds and five
assists, Kayla McBride scored 18 points, and No. 5 Notre Dame
wasn’t threatened in the second half in beating the Bruins
Natalie Achonwa had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Fighting
Irish (4-0), who shot 29 of 60 (48.3 percent) to UCLA’s 24 of 61
Markel Walker had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Alyssia
Brewer scored 10 points for the Bruins (2-1), but a sprained left
knee kept Lemberger on the sidelines. Lemberger, listed as
day-to-day, had 18 points and no turnovers in 35 minutes to lead
the Bruins to an 86-80 victory at then-No. 11 Oklahoma on Nov.
”It definitely affected us,” UCLA coach Cori Close said
regarding Lemberger’s absence. ”Thea is really a smart player. She
plays with great purpose. We’re thankful we’re getting her back
”We’re going to learn from this. We play teams like Notre Dame
because that’s what we’re building to become. We did force them
into things, we just didn’t always capitalize.”
Diggins had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists, but shot 5
of 17 and committed four turnovers.
”I credit Mariah (Williams), Markel (Walker) and our other
perimeter defenders,”’ Close said. ”I’m proud of our team for
Loyd, who shot 8 of 12 including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, made
three straight baskets midway through the first half to cap a 15-2
run that put the Irish ahead 25-17. They led the rest of the
”I was so pleased with how the game went because we hit
adversity early,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ”It wasn’t
easy, nothing was easy for us today. As ugly as it was, it was
great for a young team to come of age.”
Regarding Diggins, a first-team All-American as a junior last
season, McGraw acknowledged the fact that it wasn’t one of her
”No, she didn’t (play at her usual level),” McGraw said. ”She
feels the burden of being the one. When Jewell and Kayla played the
way they did, it allowed her to relax.”
McBride sat out a little more than three minutes early on after
injuring her right ankle. After being re-taped, she came back into
the game and didn’t show any ill effects.
Achonwa scored four points during an 8-2 run to start the second
half, giving the Irish a 44-31 lead. UCLA drew within eight on two
straight baskets by Walker, but that was as close as the Bruins
would get. Notre Dame then went on another 8-2 spurt for a 57-43
advantage with 10 1/2 minutes left.
The Irish went 35-4 last season, but became just the third team
to lose back-to-back NCAA championship games when Baylor beat them
80-61 to win the title.
UCLA entered with a 5-1 record over Notre Dame at Pauley
Pavilion. The Bruins, 9-5 overall in the series, beat the Irish
86-83 in double overtime two years ago in South Bend, Ind.
Many in the announced crowd of 3,046 at Pauley Pavilion wore
green in supporting the Irish. The top-ranked Notre Dame football
team (11-0) also is in town to face Southern California on
Saturday. A victory will put the Irish in the BCS title game in
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