SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Top-seeded Notre Dame dominated No. 16-seed North Carolina A&T for three quarters, earning praise from coach Muffet McGraw for unselfish play.
The Fighting Irish had 20 assists on 21 baskets in the first half and finished with 29 assists on 34 field goals en route to a 95-61 victory Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“That is amazing how unselfish we were,” McGraw said. “There were times somebody had a wide-open shot and they gave it to somebody for just a little better shot. It’s really fun to watch them play that way when they share the ball.”
Brianna Turner scored 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting, Madison Cable added 14 points and seven rebounds and Notre Dame 32-1) dominated inside, Aggies (19-12) 52-18 in the paint.
“LA (Lindsay Allen) just got me wide open layups. So I just had to finish it,” Turner said.
Kathryn Westbeld added 12 points as the No. 2 Fighting Irish (32-1) shot 59 percent to win their 29th straight at home, the third longest streak in school history. Notre Dame outscored the Aggies (19-12) 52-18 in the paint.
The Irish jumped quickly to a 7-0 lead and pulled away throughout most of the game, leading by 28 at halftime and 41 at the end of three quarters.
Kala Green, who missed her first 10 shots, led the Aggies with 12 points on 5 of 18 shooting, Dana Brown scored 11 and Aprill McCrae had 10 points and seven rebounds. The Irish held North Carolina A&T to 33 percent shooting, repeatedly forcing the Aggies to settle for outside shots.
“When they doubled me I couldn’t make my moves like I wanted to so I had to kick the ball out,” McCrae said.
Aggies coach Tarrell Robinson said his team was overwhelmed by the Irish defense and the large Notre Dame crowd.
“The environment, us not having been there before and not understanding how crazy it is in this arena, and I thought our girls weren’t in it mentally. I know they wanted to play hard and wanted to show up. But when you are playing one of the best teams in the country you’ve got to be rolling on all cylinders and we weren’t today,” he said.
The Irish jumped quickly to a 7-0 lead and pulled away throughout most of the game, leading by 28 at halftime and 41 at the end of three quarters before being outscored 21-14 in the fourth quarter. McGraw wasn’t pleased.
“I thought we were just lackadaisical. I don’t think we were aggressive in coming to the ball,” McGraw ssaid. “We just got careless. I thought it was really careless, just sloppy and careless.”
Marina Mabrey added 13 points and Mychal Johnson matched her season-high 12 points as the Notre Dame’s reserves outscored the Aggies bench 45-23. Allen had 10 assists in 21 minutes and Michaela Mabrey had six.
The 29 assists were the most ever by the Irish in an NCAA Tournament game. The previous record was 26 against Tennesssee-Martin in 2013. … Allen’s 10 assists were the fifth most by the Irish in the tournament and the most since Skylar Diggins had 11 against Maryland in 2012. … Turner’s 87.5 percent shooting was the third best for the Irish in the tournament and the best since Ruth Riley was 6 of 6 against Alcorn State in 2001. … The 95 points tied for the third most by the Irish in a tournament game.
North Carolina A&T: The Aggies fell to 0-3 in NCAA Tournament play. … North Carolina A&T, which finished second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in scoring defense at 57.6 points a game, hadn’t given up more than 89 points in a game this season. … The loss wasn’t the most lopsided ever for the Aggies in the tournament. In 1994, A&T was beaten by 74 points by Tennessee, 111-37, which remains the largest margin of victory in tournament history.
Notre Dame: improved to 19-4 in opening-round games. Its last loss was 79-71 to Minnesota at home in the first round in 2009. … Notre Dame improved to 13-0 against first-time opponents in the NCAA Tournament over the past 15 years. The last first-time opponent to beat the Irish in the tournament was Texas Tech 82-67 in the second round in Lubbock, Texas, in 1996. … Notre Dame is 23-0 when scoring 80 or more points in the tournament.
North Carolina A&T: Season’s over.
Notre Dame plays No. 9 seed Indiana on Monday.