Skylar Diggins scores 21 in opener as sloppy Irish rout Akron

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Akron coach Jodi Kest knew the Zips were going to be in trouble against No. 2 Notre Dame if they couldn't take care of the basketball.

Little did she know that the Zips would commit 46 turnovers in their 81-61 loss to the Irish in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT on Friday night.

Kest was able to take a lot of positives from the game as her team outrebounded Notre Dame 44-38 and forced 27 turnovers of their own.

"I think our kids worked hard," Kest said. "I think we battled. We told them before the game that there were a lot of things we can't control but there were a few things we can. We knew we were undersized, but rebounding is all about position and heart. We got 17 offensive rebounds against a team that is more athletic than us."

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was not pleased with her team's offensive effort.

"First win usually comes with some first game jitters," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "That was a little unexpected with our veteran team. I though we did some good things. We forced a lot of turnovers which was one of our goals, but I was disappointed in our rebounding.:

Skylar Diggins scored 21 points to lead Notre Dame. Kayla McBride added 15 points and Natalie Novosel had 13 for the Irish.

"I was concerned at halftime about our offensive efficiency because we had forced 26 turnovers and we were only ahead by 14," McGraw said. "I think there were times we looked too hard to find the open man. There were times when we just should have gone ahead and shot the ball."

Rachel Tecca had 13 points and Carly Young added 10 for the Zips.

"We knew coming in that to stay in the game, we would have to play an almost perfect game," Kest said. "Obviously, 46 turnovers is not close to that. It's very hard to simulate the Notre Dame pressure in practice. They are so long, and so quick. There is a reason why they are No. 2 and when they get the rest of their players back, they could really be a great team."

Notre Dame forced five turnovers on the first six Zip trips down the floor but some lackadaisical play allowed Akron to stay in the game early. The Irish kept the pressure on the experienced Zips, a team that returned 10 letter winners and four starters from last year, and forced 11 turnovers in the first eight minutes to establish an Irish 17-12 edge at the 11:46 mark. The turnovers continued and the Irish ran off a 12-1 run over the next five minutes for a 29-13 edge with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

Akron closed back to within nine, 35-26 on two free throws by Natasha Williams with 3:15 remaining but the Irish tightened up the defense and led at halftime, 44-30. Diggins led all scorers with 14 while Williams led the Zips with seven. Akron led in rebounds at halftime, 22-14.

It was more of the same in the second half. A 3-pointer by Kayla McBride was followed by a layup by Brittany Mallory to set the score at 53-34 with 15:54 remaining and Notre Dame held on from there. They established their largest lead, 25, twice midway through the second half. The Zips closed the gap to 16, 65-49 with seven minutes to go but were unable to mount a serious challenge after that.