Syracuse women's basketball coach Quentin Hillsman said the biggest surprise about No. 2 Notre Dame this season is that the team is better without Skylar Diggins.
Hillsman said coaches around the country expected a bit of a drop off for the Fighting Irish after Diggins graduated after leading the Irish to three straight Final Fours, including two title games.
"I guess that theory is out the window," he said. "No drop off."
After seeing Jewell Loyd score 23 points, Kayla McBride add 18 and the second-ranked Irish open a 33-point halftime lead Sunday in a 101-64 victory, the eighth-year Syracuse coach said he believes it's the best Notre Dame team he has seen.
"I thought last year with Skylar, some of the players would let her do her thing and kind of step to the side and let her shine. And she did, nothing against her. She really dominated the game," he said. "I think now with Skylar being gone they're so balanced. It's so hard to prepare for a team that has that kind of balance and can score from all sports on the floor."
The Orange (17-7, 6-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) clearly weren't prepared. Notre Dame took control from the start, beating the Syracuse zone inside and outside, jumping to a 14-2 lead, extending it to 29-10 midway through the first half and 61-28 at halftime, their most points in the first half this season. The Irish shot 61 percent in the first half, holding the Orange to 31 percent shooting, and outscoring Syracuse 20-8 inside.
"I thought it was one of the best halves we've had, and we've had some good ones," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We shot the ball well, we handled the press well, I was most pleased defensively."
Notre Dame also matched its season-high with 10 3-pointers, hitting seven of its first nine, while holding the Orange to five, two below their average. The Irish also forced 24 turnovers.
Loyd was 9-of-11 shooting, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, and the only thing that could slow her was sitting on the bench for nearly half the first half after picking up her second foul. McBride was 7-of-12 shooting as the Irish improved to 23-0, matching the best start in school history. The other time the Irish (10-0 ACC) started 23-0 was in 2000-01 en route to the national championship.
No. 25 Purdue 65, Michigan 56: Ashley Morrissette and April Wilson each sank 3-pointers in the final two minutes to help No. 25 Purdue put away Michigan.
The Wolverines moved out to a 27-13 lead in the first half after two 3-pointers by Madison Ristovski. Purdue countered as Whitney Bays had two layups, a jumper and two free throws to fuel a 14-2 run to close the half.
Purdue pushed toward a six-point lead at the midway mark, but Michigan pulled within one, 51-50 with 5:19 remaining. Morrissette and Wilson each sank 3-pointers, and Purdue sank their next eight free throws to end the game on a 14-6 run.
The Boilermakers (17-7, 7-5 Big Ten) were led by Bays, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Wilson scored 14 points and Camille Redmon added 10 with eight boards.
Cyesha Goree paced Michigan (15-9, 6-5) with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
No. 1 Connecticut 81, No. 4 Louisville 64: Breanna Stewart had 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead top-ranked UConn to an 81-64 victory in a rematch of last season's national championship game.
Just as in the matchup last April, which UConn won by 33 points, Stewart and the Huskies were too much for Louisville. The win was UConn's 31st straight dating back to last season's title run. That's the fifth-longest winning streak in school history.
The Huskies (25-0, 12-0 American Athletic Conference) led by 11 at the half and when Louisville (23-2, 11-1) got within 47-40, Stewart answered with five straight points to ignite a 16-5 run that put the game away. Louisville could only get within 14 the rest of the way.
Asia Taylor scored 18 points to lead Louisville, which had its 16-game winning streak end. The Cardinals' only other loss came back on Dec. 1 against Kentucky.
Washington 87, No. 3 Stanford 82: Kelsey Plum scored 23 points, Mercedes Wetmore added 18 and Washington held off a late charge for an upset victory.
It was the highest-ranked opponent the Huskies have beaten since winning against No. 2 Stanford in 1990.
The loss snapped a 62-game road conference winning streak for Stanford (22-2, 11-1 Pac-12), as well as a 14-game run against Washington (13-10, 6-6). The Cardinal's last loss in road or neutral conference games was Jan. 18, 2009, against California in Berkeley. Stanford's only other loss this year came at No. 1 Connecticut.
Chiney Ogwumike, the Pac-12's leading scorer, had 23 points but was held in check for most of the game, and her teammates were unable to pick up the slack. The Cardinal especially had trouble from long-range, shooting 9 for 41 on 3-pointers.
No. 6 South Carolina 67, Arkansas 49: Aleighsa Welch scored 16 points and had a career-best five blocks to lead No. 6 South Carolina to its sixth straight victory.
The Gamecocks (22-2, 10-1) maintained their hold on first place in the Southeastern Conference.
Arkansas (16-8, 3-8) did its best to pack in the middle and disrupt South Carolina's game plan of feeding the 6-foot Welch and 6-4 forwards Elem Ibiam and Alaina Coates underneath. But Ibiam and Coates both added 10 points each while the trio of low-post players combined for 21 rebounds.