SOUTH BEND, Ind.—The Marquette women's basketball team suffered its worst loss of the season Wednesday night to No. 16 Notre Dame, 99-76.
The Golden Eagles struggled to defend in the post as Notre Dame scored 52 points in the paint. The Fighting Irish also shot a season high 64.3 percent, which created significant difficulties for the Golden Eagles (13-11, 5-6) as they tried to keep up.
"You're not going to win against a team that shoots 64 percent," Marquette head coach Terri Mitchell said. "They beat us with the penetration and in the transition game."
Marquette shot 43.1 percent from the field and 69.2 percent from three-point range, but the fast-paced transitions and the powerful post players for Notre Dame fueled the victory for the Fighting Irish.
After a slow start, Marquette surged to a 23-17 lead with 11:37 remaining in the first half. Marquette would only score one point for nearly nine minutes after that, allowing Notre Dame to go on a 21-1 scoring run. After that, the Fighting Irish (19-5,
7-3) never lost the lead.
Junior guard Krystal Ellis scored 13 points in the first eight minutes of the game, but only scored five the rest of the way. She shot 7-for-15 from the field and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said taking Ellis out of the game was a top priority for the Fighting Irish. Trailing by six, the Fighting Irish switched to a "box and one" defense, playing Ellis man-to-man, while the other four players positioned in a zone box on defense.
"I was just trying to stay close to her and not let her touch the ball," said Notre Dame senior guard Tulyah Gaines, who was charged with defending Ellis.
It worked. The Fighting Irish regained the lead and entered halftime with a 45-31 lead.
The second half went Notre Dame's way. They expanded their lead to as many as 32 points and kept the pressure on Marquette until the final seconds.
As the lead grew, many of Marquette's underclassmen saw playing time.
"For me, in the second half, I'm just going to go with the younger generation in that situation," Mitchell said.
As a result, freshman guard Courtney Weibel scored 14 points, going 4-for-4 from the three-point line. She played 20 minutes Wednesday night; quite an improvement from the 5.2 minutes she averaged in previous games this season.
Senior forward Svetlana Kovalenko and freshman guard Angel Robinson both chipped in nine points.
For Notre Dame, Gaines scored a game-high 22 points, shooting 10-for-15 from the field. Junior forward Lindsay Schrader added 17 points, and senior guard Charel Allen scored 13.
Three Notre Dame players scored in double digits. The home team's depth became evident as it out-muscled the Golden Eagles in the post. Of the 99 points the Fighting Irish scored, only three came from beyond the arc. Notre Dame's bench added 29 points, two more than Marquette's.
The game ended with Notre Dame holding the ball for the final seconds, not breaking 100 points in what McGraw described as a show of respect for Mitchell.
"There was no way I wanted to get 100 on them," McGraw said. "It's just not something you do to friends."