SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame didn’t let the pressure get to it.
The top-seeded Fighting Irish were flustered briefly by DePaul’s press and fell behind early, turning the ball over four times in five possessions. But once Notre Dame settled down and Michaela Mabrey started hitting 3-pointers, the Irish took control and beat No. 9 seed DePaul 79-67 on Sunday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the team had worked on dealing with pressure all week and still wasn’t ready.
“We looked a little panicky,” she said. “I think after that first time out, everybody took a deep breath and said, ‘We’re going to be OK.'”
Mabrey was 5 of 7 from 3-point range to finish with 19 points, her first double-digit scoring game since scoring 20 against Boston College on Feb. 8. She said DePaul’s pressure frustrated the Irish.
“I thought we settled down a lit bit and started to get some backdoors and started to get our offense flowing more,” she said.
Notre Dame (33-2) held DePaul to 36 percent shooting to win their 19th straight to advance to the Sweet 16 for the sixth straight season. DePaul (27-8), which had won eight straight, fell a win shy of advancing to the round of 16 for a second straight season.
DePaul coach Doug Bruno said the Blue Demons got impatient offensively.
“When you’re a high-scoring team like we are, it’s really hard to ask your players to slow down. You can’t ask them to do what they don’t do,” he said. “We’ve got to play like we play. When we get impetuous offensively, we basically get ourselves into a scoring rut. That’s really where the game went.”
The Irish had an advantage inside, outscoring the Blue Demons 38-24 in the paint and outrebounding DePaul 51-32. Taya Reimer and Brianna Turner scored 14 each, with Turner pulling down 11 rebounds and Reimer grabbing 10.
Mabrey said she was open because DePaul was focusing on other Irish players.
“They were so focused on them and I was just finding my place in open space and my teammates found me really well,” she said.
Megan Podkowa led the Blue Demons with 19 points and 11 rebounds and Jessica January had 12 points and five assists.
The victory was a stark contrast to when the rivals played in December, when the Irish took advantage of poor free-throw shooting by DePaul and Jewell Loyd scored a career-high 41 points to rally the Irish to the overtime victory. Loyd was 3-of-15 on Sunday and finished with 10 points. Brittany Hrinko, who scored 32 points for DePaul in the December loss, was 3 of 16 shooting and finished with 11 points.
Hrynko said the biggest difference between the two games was shots falling.
“Just us not knocking shots down. This game, there weren’t many of them dropping,” she said.
The Irish also got 11 points and seven assists from Lindsay Allen, but it was the inside game that was key. The Irish outscored DePaul 18-12 on second-chance points as Turner, who missed the first game with a dislocated shoulder, teamed with Reimer and Kathryn Westbeld, who had eight points and seven rebounds, to dominate inside.
“We knew we were a lot bigger than them, so we were just trying to take advantage of that,” Reimer said.
DePaul: The Blue Demons finished with a school-record 364 3-pointers in 35 games this season. The previous record 314 in 36 games last season. … DePaul has never beaten a team ranked No. 2 or higher. Its previous biggest upsets were against No. 3 Stanford in 2010 and No. 3 Louisiana Tech in 1996. … Hrynko finished with 1,970 career points, fifth most in school history.
Notre Dame: The Irish have won eight straight home games in the NCAA Tournament since losing to Minnesota in the first round in 2009. … Loyd became the second Notre Dame player to score 700 points in a season with 705. The school record is 776 set by Katryna Gaither in 1996-97. … DePaul is Notre Dame’s second most frequent opponent with 41 games. Connecticut is first with 43 games.
Notre Dame plays winner of Monday’s game between Stanford and Oklahoma.