SOUTH BEND, Ind. - With Skylar Diggins gone to graduation and forward Natalie Achonwa out at least a month with a torn meniscus, Notre Dame entered Saturday's season opener with some uncertainty.
That quickly disappeared as they jumped out to a 19-7 lead over the first seven minutes en route to a 99-50 blowout of UNC Wilmington. Notre Dame dominated the undersized Seahawks on the boards, outrebounding them 52-24 and outscoring them 58-24 in the paint and 16-0 off fastbreaks.
Jewell Loyd and reserve Michaela Mabrey led the Irish with 19 points each, followed by 17 points from Kayla McBride, who left the game early because of the lopsided margin. Notre Dame was never threatened by UNC Wilmington.
"We did shoot the ball well," said McGraw of her team's 63 percent shooting. "We got a lot of lay-ups, but I thought Michaela and Jewell shot it pretty well. I thought offensively we executed really well. We got good shots and we were able to make them.
It was a career-high scoring performance for Mabrey.
"She seems to be playing with more confidence," said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. "She's looking to score more and we're encouraging her to shoot it more. She's always been a really good passer."
McGraw added that she was impressed with Loyd and McBride. "I thought they looked in mid-season form. I thought the freshman Lindsay Allen came out and played extremely well the first game of her career. She shot the ball well and did a nice job defensively."
Allen scored 11 points with two steals and two assists in 16 minutes of play. Freshman forward Kristina Nelson contributed nine points and four rebounds in just 14 minutes.
Notre Dame scored with ease from the start, whether it was their smooth transition game and repeated drives to the hoop, or quick putbacks off the offensive glass. Their talent and depth were simply too much for UNCW to handle.
Freshman forward Taya Reimer led Notre Dame with 12 rebounds, followed by Loyd with 11.
Junior guard Kelva Atkins, the Seahawks' lone returning starter from last season, led the visitors with 16 points.
The Irish led 51-22 at the half.
The teams started the second half 4-4 over the first four minutes, but back-to-back layups by Loyd and freshman Lindsay Allen sparked a 12-0 run over the next 4:30 that removed any doubt.
McGraw said she would have like to have seen more scoring out of the post early on, one of the things she will focus on Sunday in preparation for Monday's contest against No. 20 Michigan State.
"They are so talented," she said of the Spartans. "This is maybe their best team ever. They've got great, athletic wings. They're big. Their point guard is experienced and savvy. They've got a terrific game inside. They're deep and really, really long. They can really guard."