SOUTH BEND, Ind -- From the opening tip, when Devereaux Peters broke loose for a layup five seconds into the game and converted a three-point play, it was another dominant performance by No. 2 Notre Dame.
"The tip play was huge. We have been trying to do that all year and we finally got it. That got everyone excited. It set the tone and everyone had energy," Peters said Saturday after the Irish routed Villanova 76-43 for their 16th straight victory.
Peters singlehandedly outscored Villanova 17-16 in the first half -- the Irish led 44-16 -- and finished 19 points. Skylar Diggins led the Irish with 20 and Notre Dame had only nine turnovers, while forcing 20 against the outmatched Wildcats.
"We were just really trying to take care of the ball but still keep our pace and attack, I think that's what it was. We were attacking and opening up opportunities and making ourselves available," Diggins said. "I guess you can call it the luck of the Irish. We are just playing good ball with each other now and taking care of the ball."
Notre Dame (19-1) remained unbeaten at 7-0 in the Big East, and won its fourth straight game by at least 20 points. The Irish's national championship team won its first 23 games in 2000-01.
Next up for the Irish is No. 9 Tennessee on Monday night in a rematch from last spring's NCAA regional won by the Irish. The tempo will be a lot faster.
"This game was hard to play before Tennessee. I think these two teams are the antithesis of each other. We learned nothing today that we are going to use against Tennessee," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.
"Certainly, offensively, it is going to be a different flow. It was really a bad game to have two days before Tennessee, considering we have to switch gears. I thought the good thing we did today was that our pace was good. We kept pushing the ball and we are certainly going to want to do that on Monday."
Rachel Roberts scored 14 points to lead Villanova (12-7, 2-4). The Wildcats were hurt by early foul trouble from leading scorer Laura Sweeney. She finished with 10 points, five under her average in limited minutes.
Villanova coach Harry Perretta was not with the team because of a death in the family. A team spokesman said Perretta attended a funeral Saturday and would return to practice Sunday. Assistant coach Joe Mullaney ran the team in his absence.
"Sweeney playing only 15 minutes was a big blow for us. I took a risk putting her back in (with two fouls in the first half) but I felt like we needed to get some scoring but she picked up her third and that hurt us offensively," Mullaney said.
"And we made some bad decisions, but that is more Notre Dame than us. They can make you look bad a lot of times."
How much difference did it make that Perretta was not there?
"Obviously, there is probably slippage from him not being the coach because they are used to hearing his voice, but it is a lot of the same things," Mullaney said. "The difference might have been we would have lost by 23 instead of 33."
In the first half Notre Dame had only two turnovers and Villanova went 7 of 23 from the field as the Irish built a 28-point lead at the break. The Irish shot 52 percent in the half.
The rout was on early, with the Irish making 12 of 17 shots for a 32-11 lead. During that 12-minute span, the overmatched Wildcats connected on just 5 of 13 shots and turned the ball over seven times, thanks to the Notre Dame press.
Peters opened 5 of 6 from the field and Diggins was 4 of 6 with three early assists.
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