CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw learned something about her team — the Fighting Irish sure hate to lose.
Arike Ogunbowale had 23 points, and No. 5 Notre Dame bounced back from its second loss of the season with a 101-63 blowout of Clemson on Thursday night.
“You never know how you’re going respond after a loss because we don’t have a lot of practice at it,” McGraw said. “So I was pleased at the way they came out.”
The Fighting Irish (20-2, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) scored 18 straight points in the game’s first five minutes to take control on the way to reaching 20 wins for a 13th straight season and avoiding their first two-game losing streak in more than eight years.
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“I really thought we were focused and looking for each other,” McGraw said.
Notre Dame is used to many more than 20 wins in a season and played like it expected to make a run at a second straight national title.
It was the sixth time this season the Fighting Irish have gone over the century mark and second time in ACC play.
Aliyah Collier led Clemson (14-7, 5-3) with 22 points.
All five of Notre Dame’s starters average double figures this season, and each went for 10 or more points against the Tigers.
Marina Mabrey, who set her career best of 29 points at Clemson two years ago, scored 22 points. Jessica Shepard had 16, Brianna Turner added 15 and Jackie Young, who missed Sunday’s loss at North Carolina with a sprained ankle, returned to score 14.
When asked about the mood at practice the past few days, Mabrey responded, “What do you think?”
She said the players took the loss hard because they played sloppily and out of character. “That wasn’t us,” said Mabrey, who made six of Notre Dame’s seven 3-pointers.
The mission was to start quick and not let up. The plan worked well as Notre Dame scored 18 straight points in the first five minutes.
Mabrey had two of her three first-half 3-pointers in that stretch, while Shepard was strong underneath with six points. Young got her first basket to close the charge and put the Fighting Irish ahead by 16 points — a lead they would not give up.
It was a welcome start after the North Carolina game, in which Notre Dame trailed by double digits before a late rally that made it close. The 78-73 defeat dropped the Irish from No. 1 and could have led to some thorny moments with an improved Clemson on deck.
Instead, Notre Dame ran away from the Tigers. The Irish haven’t lost two straight since falling to UCLA and Kentucky in November 2010.
“With this team, they’ve responded to challenges all year long,” Clemson coach Amanda Butler said. “And this is a unique challenge.”
The Tigers, amid a surprising season under their first-year coach, jumped on top 2-0 on Destiny Thomas’ basket. Things mostly went downhill from there.
Notre Dame opened the third quarter like it did the first, using a 20-7 run to extend a lead that eventually grew to 38 points in the final minute.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish wore out Clemson on both ends of the floor. Notre Dame now has a couple of weeks against opponents it should beat until going to No. 7 North Carolina State on Feb. 18.
Clemson: The Tigers have had a surprising start to ACC play, winning five of their first six. And while they played strongly in a 54-51 loss at N.C. State last Sunday, they have a ways to go before challenging Notre Dame.
Mabrey was happy Young was back on the court. Mabrey said the team’s flow was off when Young missed the North Carolina game and when the team adjusted, it was too late to respond. This time, Young helped her team start fast as she scored all 14 of her points in the first two quarters.
The free-throw totals made it hard to tell which was the home team. Notre Dame finished 18 of 29 from the foul line while Clemson went just 1 of 5. The Tigers didn’t attempt a foul shot until late in the third quarter and only junior Keniece Purvis made one in the final period. The Tigers’ free-throw shooting percentage was the seventh-worst showing in school history.
Notre Dame hosts Georgia Tech on Sunday.
Clemson hosts No. 3 Louisville on Saturday.
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