SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Second-ranked Notre Dame is making a habit of overcoming slow starts.
Three days after coming back from 12 points down to beat Tennessee by 16, the Irish started 1-for-13 from the field against Miami and fell behind by six before coming back to beat the Hurricanes 79-52 Thursday night.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the slow start snowballed after the Irish missed their first three shots in the opening 23 seconds.
"I think everybody got a little tight then, and we needed our veterans to step up and relax and make shots," McGraw said.
The veterans actually were the ones struggling the most early, as Natalie Achonwa was 1-for-5 from the floor with three turnovers in the first five minutes and Kayla McBride missed her first seven shots. But Achonwa finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, Lindsay Allen added a season-high 16 points and McBride had 15 as the Irish got their 21st straight home victory.
Miami coach Katie Meier was disappointed the Hurricanes couldn't take advantage of Notre Dame's struggles.
"We need to be a lot more opportunistic than that if we want to make some noise in this conference this year," she said. "I think it was an opportunity lost there a little bit in the first half."
Achonwa blamed her slow start on indecision, saying she was shooting "half floaters, half finger rolls," so she started using the backboard more.
"I think I just tried to get a better angle to the basket," she said.
Achonwa also struggled at the free throw line, going 5-for-11 in the first half and finishing 9-of-15.
"I missed the first two and then I thought about it too much," she said.
McGraw was pleased with the way her team overcame the slow start.
"I think we have a lot of resolve, a lot of resilience," she said.
McGraw was most pleased with the play of Allen, especially with leading scorer Jewell Loyd out with a sprained right knee sustained against Tennessee. Allen shot 5-for-6 and had five assists.
"She was probably the only one on the team that really played not just her game, but really played well -- one of her best games," McGraw said.
Allen she tried to play a bigger role in scoring with her teammates struggling.
"I just tried to provide some energy. We were missing easy shots, chippies we normally make, so I had to get some stuff in transition, some easy baskets," she said.
After the slow start, the Irish made 10 of their final 19 shots of the first half to open a 35-26 lead the break, and then began the second half with a 10-0 run to take control.
The Irish (18-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) are off to their best start since going 23-0 en route to the national championship in 2000-01. Notre Dame had a 53-35 rebounding edge and outscored the Hurricanes 44-22 in the paint.
Jassany Williams and Adrienne Motley led Miami (11-8, 3-3) with 10 points apiece as the Hurricanes shot a season-low 30.6 percent.
Achonwa is eager to see how the Irish do when they play a complete game.
"The part that would be great is if we could do it in the first half and that we do it without having to be down or without having to be in a close game. That we could just come out with that mentality and destroy people," she said.
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