Basketball

McBride leads No. 2 Irish to 81-70 win over Duke

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Kayla McBride got No. 2 Notre Dame going early by hitting her first four shots and stopped seventh-ranked Duke's rally late by hitting back-to-back baskets.

In between, McBride did a lot of little things right, such as grabbing seven rebounds, handing out four assists and jumping out of the way when Haley Peters, trapped in the corner, tried to get out of trouble by bouncing the ball off of McBride out of bounds, forcing another Duke turnover.

McBride finished with a career-high 31 points to pace Notre Dame to an 81-70 victory Sunday, giving the Fighting Irish the Atlantic Coast Conference title in its inaugural season in the league. "We definitely enjoyed that," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of beating the defending conference champion Blue Devils.

McBride is a huge reason why the Irish (27-0, 14-0 ACC) are still unbeaten. "Kayla McBride was outstanding again today," McGraw said. "She's had a phenomenal year, but 31 points, she was just amazing. She was unstoppable."

McBride was 6-of-9 shooting in the first half and finished 13-of-25 for the game. The Irish (27-0, 14-0 ACC), who never trailed in beating the Blue Devils 88-67 earlier this month, giving the Blue Devils their first ACC loss at home since 2008, opened a 20-2 lead early on Sunday.

The Irish started the game by making 8-of-13 shots while holding Duke to 1-of-10 shooting with eight turnovers and eventually extended the lead 46-26 on a jumper by McBride with 32 seconds left in the first half.

McBride said the Irish had a lot of energy at the start. "We were hitting shots. We were getting stops on defense. We were getting in transition," she said. "I think we were just having fun." Elizabeth Williams, who led Duke with 20, said Duke made too many mistakes at the start.

"We took some bad shots, some quick shots, which fueled their transition," she said. "We just need to learn to be more patient early." The Blue Devils scored six points in the final 7 seconds of the first half and eventually cut the lead to seven points on a driving layup by Alexis Jones with 11:50 left, but Jones injured her left knee and didn't return. Coach Joanne P. McCallie said the initial diagnosis is a sprained knee, but said more tests are needed.

She said losing Jones hurt. "Notre Dame is a great team. You don't know what would have happened from there. But I guess I wish I could have seen it," McCallie said. "She's an All-American candidate, a super sophomore and obviously we were a different team when she was gone."

The Blue Devils (24-4, 11-3) cut the lead to seven points twice more, the final time when Kendall McCravey-Cooper hit a jumper to make it 66-59. But McBride answered with back-to-back baskets, one inside, the other a 3-pointer to spark an 8-0 run that put the game away.

McGraw said what makes McBride so impressive is her ability to play every position. "She's so versatile, she can do so many things and she's so incredibly coachable," McGraw said. Jewell Loyd, who added 21 points Notre Dame, said the Irish expect McBride to hit her shots.

"She's money. Kayla McBride is money," she said. "Every time she shoots, I think it's going in. So it's fun to be right." Jones finished with 15 and Richa Jackson added 11. Williams and Jackson had six rebounds each.

McGraw was pleased with the way Loyd defended Duke's leading scorer Tricia Liston, holding her to nine points, less than half her average of 18.4 points a game. "I was focused on defense and not letting her get any easy touches," Loyd said.

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