- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - For the first eight minutes, Wake Forest held its own against one of nation’s top teams.

Then things began to go wrong for the Demon Deacons, as No. 2 Notre Dame capitalized on their mistakes to pull away for an 86-61 ACC victory Thursday.

Dearica Hamby had 26 points and Jill Brunori added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Wake Forest (14-12, 5-8), which saw its two-game winning streak snapped.

“We had a great, great game plan, and for the most part, we executed it,” Demon Deacons coach Jen Hoover said. “But we tried to make a few home runs passes, and this was a game where you couldn’t do that.”

Jewell Loyd had 29 points and 10 rebounds and two other players finished in double figures as the Fighting Irish (26-0, 13-0) remain two games ahead of No. 7 Duke (24-3, 11-2) heading into Sunday’s matchup in Notre Dame, Ind.

Kayla McBride added 19 points and Taya Reimer 10 for Notre Dame, which overcame its own poor shooting thanks to the Fighting Irish’s inside play and defense.

Notre Dame shot just 39.4 percent (28 of 71) - its second-worst game of the season, and the first time under 40 percent since beating then-No. 10 Penn State on Dec. 4 - and made only 3 of 16 3-pointers.

However, the Fighting Irish forced Wake Forest into 22 turnovers, held the Demon Deacons to 35.7 percent shooting (20 of 56) and outrebounded them 49-39.

“We just couldn’t get any rhythm going offensively,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “(But) we did a nice job on the boards … and we did force them into a few turnovers.”

The turnovers led to a 30-12 advantage for the Fighting Irish in points, and 20 offensive rebounds gave them an 18-11 scoring advantage in second-chance points.

“(Notre Dame is) such a good team offensively, you can’t give them a lot of turnovers,” Hoover said. “The transition baskets show you that - they got 30 points off our turnovers.”

Notre Dame also made 27 of 31 from the free throw line, 15 of 17 coming in the second half as the Fighting Irish built on their 51-39 halftime lead.

“We beat ourselves,” said Hamby, the ACC’s scoring (21.0 per game) and rebounding (11.0 per game) leader. “Offensive rebounds killed us, turnovers killed us, stuff that we have control over. And free throws - those could have definitely helped.”

Yet, despite missing No. 2 scorer Chelsea Douglas (injured foot), Wake Forest managed to stick with the nation’s third-ranked scoring team (87.5 points per game) early in the first half.

The Demon Deacons fought back from a six-point deficit in the opening 2 minutes to tie the score, and were within 21-18 on Mykia Jones’ 3-pointer with 12:17 remaining.

However, Loyd scored seven points during a 16-3 run over a 4 1/2-minute span. Her layup with 9:22 left gave the Fighting Irish their first double-digit lead, 31-20, and Lindsay Allen’s layup with 6:34 left put them ahead 37-21, their biggest lead of the half.

Hamby, who had 15 first-half points, pulled Wake Forest within nine points, 48-39, on a short jumper with 1 minute remaining. But Michaela Mabrey’s 3-pointer with seven seconds left pushed Notre Dame’s lead back into double figures.

Even with the Fighting Irish getting into foul trouble in the second half — 13 fouls, putting Wake Forest into the bonus before the halfway point — the Demon Deacons couldn’t capitalize.

Wake Forest made just 9 of 20 from the line over the final 20 minutes and 16 of 29 for the game, and shot just 22.2 percent from the field (6 of 27) in the second half after hitting 48.3 percent (14 of 29) in the first half.

That allowed Notre Dame to build on its 12-point halftime lead. The Fighting Irish went ahead by 20 points for the first time, 70-50, on Loyd’s two free throws with 7:39 left, and scored the game’s final 10 points for the final margin.

“Once we got into transition, we got a couple of easy buckets,” McBride said. “We also got some fouls while finishing, but that helped us pull away.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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