CHICAGO — There was a loud roar before the game when Doug Bruno got a ring for being an assistant on the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team that won a gold medal in London. There was nothing for DePaul fans to cheer about after that.
Skylar Diggins finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and No. 2 Notre Dame won its 20th straight, beating the Blue Demons 84-56 on Sunday.
Jewell Loyd added 19 points. Kayla McBride scored 16, and the Fighting Irish (25-1, 13-0 Big East) cruised to another easy victory. Their only loss was to Baylor in early December, and DePaul (18-9, 7-6) never had a chance in this one.
"I've not been able to figure out best how to restructure how we play," said Bruno, whose team has been hit hard by injuries this season and has dropped four of the past six games. "I really over these last 15 days have not been happy with what we've demonstrated and what we've shown. ... We just can't stand there and sit there and just take it without fight. That's what our program has always been about – fighting."
Notre Dame took it right to DePaul and won by 20 or more for the fourth straight game while sending the Blue Demons to their second straight blowout loss. The Fighting Irish still have some big hurdles to clear if they're going to stay unbeaten in conference play, with Syracuse up next and Connecticut looming in the finale after a trip to Providence. But they sure are looking good at the moment.
The Irish forced 21 turnovers and held DePaul to 33.3-percent shooting. Brittany Hrynko scored 15 points but was just 4 of 19 from the field, and the Blue Demons fell hard again after getting blasted 81-55 by Louisville a week earlier.
Diggins, Notre Dame's second-leading all-time scorer, came through with her second career triple-double and the fourth in school history. She also had one against Maryland in the Elite Eight last season, the first for the Fighting Irish since 1990, and the 10 rebounds were one shy of her personal best.
"The assist part, I had the easy part," Diggins said. "We got out in transition well and a lot of times we just played off of each other. ... A lot of (the rebounds) kind of bounced to me."
Loyd hit 8 of 15 shots. McBride was 7 of 13 from the field. Natalie Achonwa added 14 points and eight rebounds, and Notre Dame beat DePaul for the eighth time in nine games to tie the all-time series at 19 apiece.
"Notre Dame has great athleticism and quickness," Bruno said. "There's no doubt about that. ... If the answer is they're better than us, why are we selling tickets and showing up? It's our jobs to figure out how to beat people that have all this talent and athleticism. That's the beauty and joy of coaching this great game of basketball, because it can be done. It's not like our players weren't fighting. I'm not trying to say they didn't fight. It's just been a blah bunch of games. We're not about blah."
It was clear right from the start that Notre Dame was simply too quick, too athletic, and by the time the half ended, it was 40-17. It didn't help DePaul that leading scorer Anna Martin missed her eighth straight game because of a left knee injury.
"There's no question they're not the same without her," McGraw said.
Even so, the Fighting Irish were simply on another level.
They smothered DePaul on defense, turning nine turnovers by the Blue Demons into 14 points, and had their way on offense. Diggins scored 13 in the half, while McBride and Loyd poured in 12 apiece.
The Irish jumped out to a 14-4 lead with DePaul coughing it up four times and ended the half on a 10-0 run that Loyd capped by burying a 3 at the buzzer after some neat ball movement.
That's how it was for Notre Dame. The Irish clicked all afternoon, and there was Diggins leading a balanced charge with one of her most impressive all-around performances.
"Skylar's such a great player," Bruno said. "She's a great player when she scores and shoots well. The reason she shoots well is because she's talented. She's a great player when she's having an off night scoring and she turns to just managing the game; she becomes a great player as a game manager. And those are traits that are very unique. ... The country's waiting for another (Diana) Taurasi and (Sue) Bird to take the baton from and that player's going to emerge. And Skylar has a chance to take it to that level. She's just a smart basketball player. You talk about the triple-double, but you don't talk about the quadruple-double and that's the intelligence factor."