TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – The last time Notre Dame faced a Top 10 team on the road, it had its worst game since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013.
The fifth-ranked Fighting Irish’s game against No. 8 Florida State on Sunday was a complete reversal.
Notre Dame had a double-digit lead eight minutes into the game and didn’t let up en route to a 100-69 victory over the Seminoles. Since their 100-67 loss at Louisville on Jan. 11, the Fighting Irish have won their last five games by an average margin of 32.2 points, including four by 29 or more.
“It was a great game for us from start to finish,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We shot the ball well and were able to go inside.”
The Fighting Irish (20-2, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) shot 56.8 percent from the field (42 of 74) and dominated the paint, outscoring the Seminoles 66-24. Six of the nine Notre Dame players who saw action scored in double figures, led by Kathryn Westbeld’s 21 points and 12 rebounds.
With the exception of an Imani Wright 3-pointer, which gave the Seminoles a 3-2 lead for 19 seconds, Notre Dame led throughout. It was up 29-14 at the end of the first period after shooting 14 of 22 from the field and forcing five turnovers. Florida State shot 23.8 percent from the field (5 of 21) the first 10 minutes and was 25 of 75 for the game.
Arike Ogunbowale and Jessica Shepard each scored 19 points for the Fighting Irish, who led 48-29 at halftime and were up by as many as 34 (91-57) late in the fourth quarter.
After a one-point win at Louisville on Jan. 21, Florida State was looking for its second straight win over a Top 5 program. Instead, it allowed 100 points for the first time since Jan. 27, 2002, when it lost to Duke (102-80).
“It was a disappointing effort for us, especially on the defensive end,” coach Sue Semrau said. “They are a great offensive team and we didn’t do a good job of passing. It is always tough to come back after a week off. We showed we were not mature enough to handle it.”
Imani Wright led Florida State (18-3, 6-2) with 23 points, including five 3-pointers and Chatrice White added 14 points.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish remain tied with Louisville and Virginia atop the conference. It is 70-3 since joining the league in 2013-14.
Florida State: The Seminoles drew a school-record crowd of 9,498, surpassing the old mark by nearly 3,000. “I feel disappointed we were not able to play better,” Semrau said. “That is not the team we have been.”
POST-GAME NOTES (COMPILED BY FSU SPORTS INFORMATION)
• Imani Wright registered her team-leading ninth 20-point game this season and drilled five 3-point field goals. It is the fifth time this season she has made five or more beyond the arc.
• Wright has 74 3-point field goals this season. She is five shy of setting a new school record – the current record is 78 by Courtney Ward (2010-11).
• Shakayla Thomas’ 10 rebounds are her third consecutive game with double-figure boards and the 18th time in her career she has had 10+.
• Chatrice White fell one rebound shy of what would have been her 35th double-double as a collegiate student-athlete.
• AJ Alix recorded her 18th game this season with more assists (5) than turnovers (3).
• The Seminoles are now 5-5 all-time in AP Top 10 matchups (when both teams are Top 10).
• Prior to the game, Head Coach Sue Semrau was honored as the 2018 Barefoot Coach of the Year by Samaritan’s Feet.
HEAD COACH SUE SEMRAU
“That was a great atmosphere and an extremely energetic crowd. Just a disappointing effort on our part especially on the defensive end. We felt like we needed to be able to rebound the ball and from the beginning I felt like we didn’t go follow our shots. A couple things I would say is first of all Notre Dame is a great offensive team and they’ve done a tremendous job with the players that they have defensively to put together a zone that makes it hard to see things, so I thought we didn’t do a good job of passing the ball. They did a great job of taking away those passing lanes and just credit to them. They had a great game plan.”
On Shakayla’s shooting and the team’s play early on…
“I didn’t expect that. Really, it’s always tough to come from a week off and you don’t have that rhythm and we tried our best to maintain a rhythm during practice but obviously we’re not mature enough to handle that week off the way we needed to.”
On the all-time great crowd…
“Unbelievable support from Tallahassee and that just meant so much to me. I was without words at the beginning of the game and I feel disappointed that we didn’t give them a better show. That’s not the team that we’ve been and hopefully we’ll be more entertaining the next time.”
On moving forward…
“Notre Dame is a great team and now we’ve just finished half of ACC play. Now we’ve got to re-group and get ready for a great NC State team up at their place and we’ve got to have short memories but at the same time we need to do a better job of getting back to offensively moving the ball. You can’t win a lot of game with 10 assists.”
On how well-balanced the top-tier of the ACC really is…
“I think it really comes down to any given night and that’s a tough thing as a coach. But certainly, it’s going to be an exciting ACC Tournament.”
On the team moving forward mentally…
“There’s no question, I mean we have five seniors. They’ve been here before and they know that there’s lots of games and quite frankly when we looked at this stretch realistically early on they thought they’d be 6-2. It’s not like we’re really away from what we wanted to do, but we’ve got some work to do now because I think we’re a better team than 6-2.”
REDSHIRT SENIOR GUARD IMANI WRIGHT:
On her team’s struggles:
“Like Coach Sue said, Notre Dame’s zone was very, very good. The things they did got us out of our rhythm, so it was more so us. I think that we needed to settle down more and be more confident. That’s something tonight that didn’t show up.”
On Notre Dame’s performance inside the paint:
“I just think that we needed to be more aggressive defensively, and pressing the ball in, and getting in their faces, and making those passes that they had hard and contesting shots. But I think it was us more so. We needed to have the confidence on both ends and be the Florida State team you’ve seen us be this year. It was just something that we struggled with today.”
On the difference playing in front of a record breaking crowd:
“We just went to Louisville and they had however many fans, and we played up to our potential. Credit to the fans. I was super excited for them to come out and support us, and I just wanted to play well for them. But I think it’s something that’s a learning experience for us. Going forward, no matter what night it is, or however many fans are in the stands, we have to play Florida State basketball and we didn’t do that today.”
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH MUFFET MCGRAW
“I was very pleased with the way we executed today. I thought Kathryn Westbeld was phenomenal. She was an All-American, double-double, she was not going to let us lose this game today. I thought the difference in the game was we scored in the paint. We got great shots, we shot the ball well, we were able to go inside. I thought our defense on Thomas was outstanding. Overall just a great game from start to finish.
On what went into limiting Shakayla Thomas:
“She’s a great player. We tried to double team her as much as possible when she got the ball on the block. I think she just missed some shots she normally makes also, but then I think the double team forced a few turnovers. We had great awareness of where she was all the time.”
On the atmosphere in the Tucker Center:
“We like playing in front of a crowd. It doesn’t matter if they are for us or not. It was a great environment for women’s basketball, it was a great game to have on TV. I thought they weren’t really a factor because we were able to give them a knock-out punch early.”
On the depth of the ACC:
“We have three great teams in the top ten and all of us are playing great basketball. I think the ACC is an incredibly tough conference, if not the toughest in the country and certainly one of them.”
On the team’s demeanor:
“Well Kathryn is in charge of that. She is the glue for us. If they press or give us trouble in the back court, she ran the offense quite a bit tonight and I thought she did a really great job of making decisions. She is the calming presence for us and I thought on the road in front of this crowd we showed a lot of poise.”
On Coach Sue Semrau:
“I think in the last few years they have really stepped up to an elite level. I think they have really benefitted from recruiting and the transfers they have had come in. To have five seniors, I’m not sure any top ten team in the country has five seniors starting. She’s really built it up and she’s well respected in our profession.”
On the game in the paint against Chatrice White and Shakayla Thomas:
“I think Jessica Shepard is pretty good too. I think we had a mis-match in our favor and we were able to go inside to her quite a bit. I think she’s a tough matchup for everyone and she really played like an All-American today.”
On making a statement after loss to Louisville:
“I think we definitely learned from the Louisville game but we have definitely moved on from that. I think this game we were really focusing on setting the tone and not letting the other team set the tone for us. So I think that start to the game really got us going.”
On wearing Florida State down in the paint:
“I think we were just following the game plan. You know coach is a Hall of Famer for some type of reason. I think this was the first game that we really played four quarters and followed the game plan. Obviously getting inside was a part of that and I think that’s was we did and executed that well.”