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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — After allowing Georgia Tech to shoot 50 percent two nights ago, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw told her team their defense must get better.
The No. 6 Fighting Irish (19-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) responded with a 74-36 win over Clemson on Saturday, the lowest number of points Notre Dame has allowed in an ACC game since joining the league last season.
"I am really pleased. We weren't happy with our defense," McGraw said. "Rebounding was the biggest thing."
The Irish pulled down 46 rebounds, 20 more than Clemson. They had 20 offensive rebounds, while the Tigers had just 26 rebounds total.
The Irish were playing their fourth game in 10 days and briefly looked like that might have caught up with them, turning the ball over on their first two possessions and falling behind 5-2 just over two minutes into the game. But the Irish went on a 40-6 run over the next 14 minutes as they improved to 26-1 in the ACC since joining the league two seasons ago.
"When you look at the schedule, you just think, why did I do that? Once you get past it, it is nice to have a little breather," said McGraw, who plans to give her team the next two days off.
Clemson (9-11, 1-6) has lost 70 of its last 71 games against Top 25 teams. The Tigers have been to 15 NCAA tournaments, but none since 2002.
Clemson was held under 40 points in an ACC game for the first time in 49 games since a 68-36 loss to Virginia in February 2012.
The Irish simply pounded Clemson into submission early. They had 24 shots inside in paint in the first half, making 14 of them. On the other end of the floor, the Tigers couldn't solve Notre Dame's zone. They had just four shots in the paint in the opening half, making two.
The Irish shot 45.6 percent (26-of-57). It was only the sixth time this year they have made less than half their shots. But Clemson shot just 28.6 percent (14-of-49)
Loyd was the game's leading scorer with 17 points — less than her ACC-leading average of nearly 22 points a game. But she played just 24 minutes — only seven of them in the second half.
Brianna Turner added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish.
Nikki Dixon had 15 for Clemson, shooting 17 of the team's 49 shots.
"She's playing her heart out us every single night — senior year, doesn't want her season to end," Clemson coach Audra Smith said.
So how does a team that has dominated the ACC find motivation against a team that hasn't had a winning season in 11 years? For Notre Dame, it came with Clemson's standard introduction video where a tiger chases a bus with the opposing school's logo and tears the logo apart with its paw.
"We were motivated today. They had a funny and kind of insulting intro video that motivated us even more," Loyd said.
Clemson has nine freshmen on their 14-player roster. The newcomers have played nearly 55 percent of the Tigers total minutes this season.
Smith said the grind of a 29-game regular season is getting to her players. Some of them finished their senior seasons in high school in mid-February.
"Those nine freshmen are like, 'holy smokes, we have another whole month to play, and the ACC tournament?'" Smith said. "Their bodies and minds are still trained in that high school mode."
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish made their first trip to Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday. It was the only ACC arena the Irish hadn't played at... A local Norte Dame alumni club encouraged its members to come to Saturday's game. About 100 green-wearing fans sat behind the bench, coming close to matching the number wearing Clemson orange in the rest of the arena.
Clemson: Just two Clemson players shot 50 percent or better. Paige Mosley made both her baskets and Francesca Tagliapietra made a 3-pointer, the first points of the game and the only shot she tried.
Notre Dame travels to Virginia Tech on Thursday. The Irish lost their last game in Blacksburg, Virginia, back in February 2003 when both teams were in the Big East.
Clemson travels to Wake Forest on Thursday. The Demon Deacons are winless in the ACC.
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