WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Notre Dame didn’t have one of its better shooting games against Wake Forest.
However, the second-ranked Fighting Irish did enough right in other areas to stay unbeaten with an 86-61 victory over the Demon Deacons and remain atop the ACC standings.
Jewell Loyd had 29 points and 10 rebounds and two other players finished in double figures as Notre Dame (26-0, 13-0) remained two games ahead of No. 7 Duke (24-3, 11-2) heading into Sunday’s matchup.
Kayla McBride added 19 points and Taya Reimer 10 for the Fighting Irish, who overcame their own poor shooting thanks to their inside play and defense. Notre Dame and top-ranked UConn are the only undefeated teams left in the country.
Notre Dame shot just 39.4 percent (28 of 71), its second-worst game of the season. It was the first time the Irish have been under 40 percent since beating then-No. 10 Penn State on Dec. 4.
The Irish forced Wake Forest (14-12, 5-8) 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 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.
“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.”
Wake Forest shot just 22 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 the Fighting Irish to build on their 12-point halftime lead. They 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.
“(Notre Dame is) such a good team offensively, you can’t give them a lot of turnovers,” Demon Deacons coach Jen Hoover said. “The transition baskets show you that – they got 30 points off our turnovers.”
Dearica Hamby had 26 points and Jill Brunori added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Wake Forest, which also made just 5 of 16 3-pointers and went 16 of 29 from the free throw line.
Yet, despite missing No. 2 scorer Chelsea Douglas (injured foot), the Demon Deacons managed to stick with the nation’s third-ranked scoring team (87.5 points per game) early in the first half.
Wake Forest 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 the Demon Deacons 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.