Fast forward to Tuesday night at No. 19 West Virginia. Devereaux Peters hit eight of 10 shots in just 22 minutes of play. Becca Bruszewski connected on five of eight. Natalie Achonwa hit one of two. That's 14 of 20 (70 percent) against a West Virginia team that is second in the Big East in defense (51.3 points a game) and 10th in the nation in defensive shooting percentage (34.1 percent).
Mountaineers this season.
It all added up to a 72-60 victory for Notre Dame over the Mountaineers on Tuesday night. Now, the No. 8 Irish (23-5, 12-2 Big East) await a visit from Cincinnati (8-18, 1-13) in the home finale on Saturday (2 p.m. EST tipoff).
“Dev, 8-for-10, she made some big shots around the basket,” McGraw said. “She was able to post up the smaller guards. But I thought defensively, our posts did a really nice job on their posts.
“I was really pleased with the offense. We worked a lot on the (back-door plays). I thought we really executed them really well. We got some great shots. We shot the ball extremely well, but when you're getting lay-ups, it's a little bit easier to shoot well.”
McGraw also wanted to see how her team would handle coming off a tough loss with a game three days later in a hostile environment against a tough opponent.
“It was a great mentally tough game,” McGraw said of playing at West Virginia. “We came out well, they made a run, we answered. I thought we answered with our defense. We picked up the ball much better full court. I thought Skylar got up on the ball much better. The press was better. We slowed them down, and we did a better job of double-teaming in the post. I thought we definitely showed improvement.”
Notre Dame's posts weren't the only ones slicing up West Virginia's vaunted defense.
Natalie Novosel scored 22 points, hitting 7-of-13 shots and 8-of-8 free throws. Brittany Mallory was 4-of-4 shooting (including a 3-pointer) for nine points. Diggins scored 10 points and had seven rebounds and seven assists.
“Their guards are physical,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “They cut hard. They don't jog through there. They cut hard. They'll push you off. They're physical. I told our girls, when (Notre Dame) got a shoulder on us, around the end, they drove us to the rim. When we get it, we were kicking back out.”
West Virginia forced Notre Dame into a season-high 30 turnovers, and the Irish had the ball stolen a season-high 16 times.
“I'm really disappointed in our turnovers,” McGraw said. “That's an embarrassing number. They're a great defensive team, one of the best teams in the conference defensively. It was amazing we were able to score 72 points here.”
West Virginia guard Sarah Miles said that the Irish were vulnerable to the press.
“We just tried to stay in the lanes on them and keep the pressure on them,” Miles said. “We could tell in the first half, they couldn't handle the pressure.”
Notre Dame punished West Virginia's defense for being too aggressive. The Irish switched their offensive schemes to take advantage of the Mountaineers' tendency to overplay the ball, and the strategy paid off, especially when West Virginia cut a 17-point Irish lead to nine in the second half.