for this game

ND forces 34 turnovers, beats Villanova 81-46

Jan 9, 2010 - 10:26 PM By TOM COYNE AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind.(AP) -- Notre Dame's starters were sitting on the bench counting the number of turnovers Villanova was committing.

"We heard they had 29, then we were like, 'Thirty, that's 30, 31!"' Irish point guard Melissa Lechlitner said. "We were definitely excited because coach kept saying, 'They're not going to turn it over, they're not going to make dumb plays.' So for us to force them into turnovers and travels and everything, I think that's really a credit to our defense."

The third-ranked Irish (14-0, 1-0 Big East) forced the Wildcats (10-4, 0-2) into a season-high 34 turnovers in beating Villanova 81-46 on Saturday, the largest margin of victory in the 26-game series between the schools. The Wildcats entered the game second in the nation in fewest turnovers per game at 12.6. They had 17 in the first half - one shy of their previous season high.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was pleased her team, which in the past has struggled against Villanova's methodical style in the past, was able to control the tempo.

"This is a game I don't look forward to because their style of play and they take such good care of the ball and they move so well. It's a difficult game for us," McGraw said. "I thought our pressure today in the man-to-man was unbelievable."

The Irish turned the ball over nine times, matching the season low set against Purdue the previous game.

Skylar Diggins led the Irish with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and was key in leading the Irish defensively. She was among seven Irish players with at least two steals. Melissa Lechlitner added 11 points.

Villanova's leading scorer Laura Sweeney, who had a career-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in loss at Providence on Wednesday, played just three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. She finished with five points. Maria Getty scored 10 points to lead the Wildcats.

The Irish used a 19-4 run to end the first half and open a 43-22 lead at intermission. That was one point shy of the most points surrendered in a half this season by the Wildcats, who were giving up an average of 48 points a game. The Irish added a 23-3 run in the second half to go ahead 75-38.

Diggins said getting the lead early was key.

"We wanted to dictate the game and make them play to our pace and our tempo," she said.

Villanova coach Harry Perretta said the Wildcats, who start a sophomore, a redshirt freshman and a freshman because it lost two starters earlier this season to knee injuries, weren't ready for the experienced Irish.

"We're a little short on talent right now because of the injuries and we have very inexperienced players," he said. "Usually when that happens, that's going to be the result, what you saw out there."