Notre Dame's blowout clinches school's best start at 24-0

BOSTON -- Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw really wasn't surprised her team was a bit sluggish after beating Boston College so easily last month.

Kayla McBride scored 19 points, Jewell Loyd 18 and second-ranked Notre Dame coasted to an 82-61 win over the Eagles on Thursday night, giving the Fighting Irish their best start in school history.

"It really is," she said when asked if it's hard facing a team you've dominated. "No matter how many times you tell yourself, 'We've got to be ready and play hard,' you just don't have the same feel to it."

After rolling to a 95-53 win in South Bend, Ind., in the first meeting on Jan 9, she was bothered her team wasn't sharp in the first half.

"I was really disappointed," she said. "I was disappointed with the energy we came out with, just the lethargic pace. I thought we picked up it a little bit in the second half when we came up and pressed them."

Notre Dame (24-0 11-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) remains one of just two unbeaten teams in the country along with top-ranked Connecticut. The start surpasses the season-opening 23 straight wins by the 2000-01 team that went on to win the school's first national championship.

"It definitely feels good," said McBride, a senior. "It's an accomplishment. It's great to come out here for these coaches that put so much time in for us."

But how does this team rank against the 2001 national champions?

"Time will tell," McGraw said.

Kat Cooper led Boston College (12-13, 3-9) with 13 points, and Katie Zenevitch had 12 with eight rebounds. The Eagles have lost seven of eight.

BC coach Erik Johnson thought his team learned a lot from the first meeting against the Fighting Irish.

"I thought we clearly took a step forward tonight," he said. "I think we want to get better, learn from it and embrace it. We're going to get one of these sometime. How often do you have the No. 2 team in the country coming into your place with a chance to upset them?"

BC's leading scorer Kristen Doherty was out for precautionary reasons with concussion symptoms.

Notre Dame is ranked second -- behind UConn -- in the Top 25 for the eighth consecutive week.

"There's a reason that they're 24-0," Johnson said. "I think clearly along with UConn they're the best team in the country."

The Fighting Irish led 41-26 at halftime and used a 12-0 run early in the second half to move ahead by 28 points.

Similar to the first time the teams met this season, Notre Dame opened a double-digit lead in the opening minutes of the game, 21-10, but BC whittled it back into single digits a few times over the next 3 1-2 minutes before the Fighting Irish went on a game-breaking 14-0 run late in the half. Michaela Mabrey had a pair of 3s and McBride scored four points in the spree.

Notre Dame's tight man-to-man defense gave BC fits on a number of occasions in the opening half, forcing the Eagles deep into the shot clock. The Irish overplayed the 3-point shooters, leading to some late contested long-range shots.

In front of a usually small crowd that was likely reduced by a midday snowstorm that blanketed the area, some of the loudest noise could be heard from BC's bench when it needed to count down the shot clock during offensive possessions.

The Fighting Irish, who entered leading the nation in field goal and three-point percentage, missed their initial three shots from the floor before nailing their next four en route to a 15-6 edge in the opening 5 1-2 minutes.

Notre Dame pushed its advantage to 20 points for the first time (49-29) on Loyd's jumper from the right wing 3:14 into the second half, coming early a 12-0 spree. McBride capped the run with a conventional 3-point play when she was fouled on a fastbreak and converted the free throw.

Coming off a school-record fourth 100-point game in a win against Syracuse on Sunday, Notre Dame rested most of its starters for the final minutes.