DURHAM, N.C. — After turning a tight game into yet another blowout, Muffet McGraw figures No. 5 Notre Dame has earned a break.
Marina Mabrey scored 18 points, and the Fighting Irish pulled away to beat No. 19 Duke 72-54 on Sunday.
Jackie Young added 17 points and Arike Ogunbowale finished with 12 to help the Irish (22-2, 10-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) win their seventh straight.
"We have been on an incredible grind this season," McGraw said. "It's long, and we haven't had a bye yet. ... It's really been a battle of mental toughness."
They shot nearly 54 percent in the second half, scored 22 points off Duke's 17 turnovers and reeled off 10 straight points in the fourth quarter to wrap up their 14th straight victory in the series.
ACC scoring leader Lexie Brown finished with 16 points — four fewer than her average. Rebecca Greenwell had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Leaonna Odom added 11 points for Duke (18-6, 7-4). Brown's 3-pointer pulled the Blue Devils within 58-52 with 7½ minutes remaining.
Ogunbowale started the decisive burst with a 3-pointer from the left corner, then added two free throws before Young hit a bucket and Mabrey made a 3 to put the Irish up 68-52 with just under 4 minutes remaining.
"The fourth quarter obviously got us in a way that we would not like to have happen," coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are usually good for a single ACC loss per season, and after they got it out of the way at Louisville, they've been on a tear. This counts as a close game in a difficult environment for a Notre Dame team that had won its previous four games by an average of 37.5 points.
Duke: The Blue Devils could have used a resume-building victory over Notre Dame to enhance their case for a top-four NCAA Tournament seeding and the right to play host to a four-team opening-weekend subregional. Instead, their 30-game winning streak in home regular-season games is history.
Duke had the ball with a chance to take the lead midway through the third quarter but Erin Mathias missed an open putback attempt and Notre Dame countered with a 3-pointer by Young. That started a 12-2 spurt that put the Irish up by double figures for the first time. The Blue Devils never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Three Notre Dame players (Mabrey, Young, Ogunbowale) played 40 minutes and two others played at least 30. "I think we're used to playing with a short bench, and we've been in this position before," Mabrey said. "We just have to play a little bit smarter and get stops."
Duke lamented its willingness to settle for jump shots all day. The Blue Devils earned just seven free throws (making four) while hoisting 19 3-pointers. Notre Dame, meanwhile, was 13 of 16 from the foul line.
SHE SAID IT
"I just think we kind of folded" — Brown, on her team's play down the stretch.
Duke pulled out all the stops, inviting back to campus all three players whose jerseys hang in the Cameron rafters — Alana Beard, Lindsey Harding and Elizabeth Williams — while also honoring the 2006 team that was the program's last to reach the Final Four. The coach of that team — Gail Goestenkors — called this game for ESPN2.