SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A game after getting her 900th career coaching victory, Muffet McGraw thought defending NCAA champion Notre Dame played its best game of the season in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Pittsburgh.
"The best game we've played the whole year," McGraw said after Marina Mabrey scored 20 points and Arike Ogunbowale had 18 to lift the second-ranked Fighting Irish over the Panthers 100-44 on Thursday night for their sixth straight victory.
"I was thrilled with that ... especially in the first half," said McGraw, whose Irish beat Lehigh on Sunday to allow the Naismith Hall of Fame coach to become the fourth fastest women's basketball coach to 900 victories. "We played great defense, really moved the ball on offense, (had) a lot of assists — just some really, really aggressive play."
The Fighting Irish (13-1) rolled in their sixth ACC opener. Ogunbowale reached double figures for her 35th straight game, and Mabrey added seven assists, all in the first half. Notre Dame used two 21-0 runs in the first and second quarters to lead 60-14 at halftime and reached 100 or more points for the fifth time this season.
"I was happy I could find my teammates inside because that's our first initial look," Mabrey said, "and also my teammates are finding me. I'm just trying to be a presence on the floor to lead the team."
Jackie Young had 16 points to become Notre Dame's fifth starter with 1,000 or more points. Young played 20 minutes and hit 6-of-9 shots and had six rebounds with two assists.
"We've been playing really well of late as a team, sharing the ball and looking for open shots," Young said.
Notre Dame shot 52.3 percent and had 24 assists on 34 field goals while holding Pittsburgh (9-6, 0-1) to 26.6 percent (17 of 64) for the game as McGraw rested her starting five during stretches in the first half and all of the fourth quarter.
Jasmine Whitney led Pitt with nine points. The Panthers ended a three-game winning streak.
"First time head coach, first ACC game, you get to play Notre Dame," sighed an impressed Pittsburgh coach Lance White, who spent 15 years on Sue Semrau's staff at Florida State before taking over the Panthers last April. "One of the best teams in the country, and obviously we're not ready for them yet."
Pitt scored the first basket of the second quarter before the Irish scored the next 21 points, with Ogunbowale's jumper from the key making it 53-12 with 4:49 until halftime.
The 14 points by the Panthers were the fewest the Irish have allowed in a half since joining the ACC for the 2013-14 season. Virginia Tech had 11 in an 80-41 loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 24, 2016.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers had overcome deficits of nine points or more in their three victories coming into the game. White's team wasn't going to do it against the Irish. In the first half, the Panthers were outshot 53.8-19.4 percent, outrebounded 31-17, had 14 turnovers to Notre Dame's five, and 13 personal fouls to Notre Dame's two. The Panthers did outscore Notre Dame 20-15 in the final period.
Notre Dame: The Irish were averaging 61.2-percent shooting and 25.5 assists (102 assists on 148 field goals) in their last four victories. At halftime, the Irish were 21-of-39 shooting (53.8 percent) after shooting just 47.4 percent (9 of 19) in the second quarter. But they had 15 assists on the 21 field goals. Plus, Jessica Shepard had 10 rebounds and five assists to offset a 0-for-7 shooting start. She finished with six points and 11 rebounds.
Pittsburgh: Thursday at No. 9 North Carolina State.
Notre Dame: Sunday at Georgia Tech.
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