Notre Dame uses 14-0 first-half run to pull away

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The fans drawn by freshman Charel Allen almost made it seem like a home game for Notre Dame. Courtney LaVere made certain it wasn't a game at all once Pitt's leading scorer got into foul trouble.

LaVere came off the bench to lead Notre Dame's pivotal 14-0 run late in the first half and the Fighting Irish (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) went on to their seventh consecutive victory, beating Pittsburgh 75-47 on Saturday.

LaVere scored 11 of her 17 points in the first half to help Notre Dame (20-3, 8-2 Big East) turn a 24-18 lead into a 38-18 advantage over a five-minute stretch in which Pitt star Marcedes Walker drew her third foul.

"We did a good job from stopping Pitt from moving the ball in transition," coach Muffet McGraw said. "Marcedes is a tough matchup for any team, and we couldn't handle her one-on-one. She still played well even after getting in foul trouble."

Walker, also a freshman, had 13 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 6:32 remaining for Pitt (11-10, 3-7).

"I shouldn't have gotten two dumb fouls," said Walker, whose absence allowed Notre Dame to take an extra defender off her. "I've been double-teamed for quite a while now, but I've still got to work on it."

Allen, who is one of Pennsylvania's leading high school scorers of all-time, also didn't start but scored 16 points while being cheered on by hundreds of fans from her Monessen, Pa., hometown. Allen never seriously considered Pitt, saying she disliked the school's hilly, urban campus.

It seemed like home to her on Saturday.

"I didn't think I would make an impact so early," said Allen, who scored in double figures for the third time in six games. "My coach wants me to shoot more -- that's what she keeps telling me."

With Walker out, the 6-foot-1 LaVere and 6-3 Teresa Borton dominated inside against Pittsburgh, which was far less physical without the Big East's third leading rebounder.

LaVere started the run with a steal and finished it with consecutive baskets before adding two free throws after Pittsburgh scored for the first time in five minutes on Jessica Allen's 3-pointer, her only basket.

Borton had two blocked shots, a steal and a basket and Crystal Erwin added a steal and basket during the run, which repeatedly saw the Panthers settle for 3-point attempts when they couldn't get the ball inside. Borton finished with 10 points and four blocked shots, and Erwin had eight points.

Pitt was only 5-of-26 on 3-pointers, with Vika Sholokohova going 1-of-9. Notre Dame was so successful pounding the ball inside it attempted only six 3-pointers, making two.

Jacqueline Batteast added 12 points for Notre Dame, whose seven-game streak includes four victories over ranked opponents -- topped by a 65-59 decision at three-time defending national champion Connecticut that ended the Huskies' 112-game Big East home winning streak.

Walker, a muscular former high school shot putter, had little help offensively. Katie Histed had eight points and five rebounds but missed 12-of-15 shots as the Panthers shot 25 percent (17-of-68) to Notre Dame's 43.5 percent (27-of-62).

Pittsburgh lost its seventh in nine games and its sixth in its last seven home games, despite a season-high crowd of 5,652 drawn by a $1 ticket promotion and Allen's return. Pittsburgh is 0-15 against Notre Dame.

The Pitt women's program has yet to rival its men's program in recruiting, success or interest and was drawing only 817 fans per game before Saturday. The Panthers have dropped 10 of 15 since starting 6-0 and are 0-4 against ranked opponents.