Walker leads No. 4 UConn in rout of Notre Dame





STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- UConn players had heard the narrative that Sunday's game against rival Notre Dame would be a match-up of two programs in down years.

The Huskies wanted to make a statement that they are not in a rebuilding mode.

Megan Walker scored 26 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead No. 4 Connecticut to an 81-57 rout of the Irish.

''This game meant a lot to us as far as the history and we wanted to prove something,'' Walker said. ''''Just as a team (we heard) we're not the typical UConn team or we're not this or we're not that. We wanted to play together and prove that we're capable of doing those things.''

Walker hit 10 of her 18 shots for the Huskies (8-0) . Olivia Nelson-Ododa added 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Christyn Williams had 12 points and Crystal Dangerfield, who returned to the Huskies starting lineup after missing two games with back spasms, chipped in with 10.

Anaya Peoples had 17 points and 11 boards to lead Notre Dame (5-6), which has a losing record for the first time in 16 years. Katlyn Gilbert scored 15 and Marta Sniezek added 14 for the Irish.

UConn never trailed, outrebounded the Irish 48-32 and had 21 second-chance points, while holding Notre Dame to just five.

''That was one of the key points that coach had made coming into the game was just get on the offensive and defensive boards and just attack them,'' Nelson-Ododa said.

Kyla Irwin opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from the left baseline and the Huskies ran out to a 12-2 lead, capped by a layup from Nelson-Ododa that forced Muffet McGraw to call an early timeout.

''We just have to figure out how we are going to score, because we're not a great defensive team'' McGraw said. ''Going into the season we knew we weren't going to be able to score, so we worked a lot on our defense and we haven't been able to play great defense.''

Sniezek kept the Irish in the game early, scoring nine of her points in the first quarter. But a putback by Aubrey Griffin just before the buzzer gave the Huskies a 29-13 lead after 10 minutes.

A steal and conventional 3-point play from Walker gave UConn its first 20-point lead at 46-25. The, junior forward had 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the first half and UConn led 52-25 at the break.

The Huskies extended their run to 18 in the second half before a layup by Peoples midway through the third quarter.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: Graduation, transfers and injuries have taken their toll on the Irish. No one who appeared for Notre Dame in last year's national semifinal win over UConn played on Sunday. The Irish last had a losing record in December of 2003, when they were 3-4. The last time they had a losing record after 10 games was in 1992-93.

''This team wasn't ready for our schedule,'' McGraw said. ''And so, we've put them in a really bad situation and it's not going to get any easier, so we just have to continue improving.''''

UConn: The Huskies improve to 38-13 against Notre Dame. They are 3-5 against the Irish in the NCAA Tournament.

CONSISTENCY

Notre Dame had a 12-year run in the AP poll come to an end this season.

UConn has been a staple in the Top 25 for more than a quarter century.

Coach Geno Auriemma said to be consistently successful, he needs to have two players in each recruiting class who have the potential to be college All-Americans Walker, he said, is beginning to realize her potential.

''Megan is playing like she's a first-team All-American player,'' he said. '' I don't know anybody who is playing better than her. I haven't seen anything.''

BIGGEST BLOWOUT

This was not the most lopsided victory in the series. That came in January, 2002 when UConn won by 27 points, 80-53 in Hartford.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Irish host DePaul on Wednesday night.

UConn: The Huskies also have DePaul as their next opponent, but have a week off before facing the Blue Demons in Chicago on Dec. 16.

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