Cincinnati is the lowest scoring team in the Big East, so it can't afford for the only player averaging double-digit points to have a bad game.
No. 2 Notre Dame held Dayeesha Hollins to a season-low six points on 2-of-9 shooting, including 0 for 4 in the first half, as Kayla McBride outscored the Bearcats on her own in the first half to lead second-ranked Notre Dame to a 64-42 victory on Saturday.
Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott said the combination of Notre Dame's defense and Hollins having a bad shooting game was too much for the Bearcats to overcome.
"She's our best player. Everybody knows it. Everybody knows we have trouble scoring and we expect every team that we play to try to take her out of her game offensively and make somebody else score," Elliott said. "She had her season low with six, but I thought she was still being aggressive."
Hollins said the Bearcats knew the Irish would use pressure defense to slow them down, but they couldn't do anything about it. She said she couldn't find a way to make shots.
"I couldn't hit it," she said.
Elliott said Hollins missed shots she usually makes.
"I thought she got to the rim a couple of times and missed some easy bunnies," she said.
McBride broke out of a shooting slump by making her first seven shots and scoring 17 of her 19 points in the first half, when the Bearcats were held to 15 shots. McBride hit a mid-range jumper a minute in and then started scoring in bunches.
"I think a lot of it has to do with my shot selection," McBride said. "I was just open and I was just hitting shots today."
McBride had made just 4 of 18 shots against Tennessee on Monday and missed all five shots the previous game against Providence. She said she watched a lot of film during the week and thought she needed to do a better job of choosing her shots, saying she tried to do too much against the Volunteers after missing some shots.
"Because you want to get that back. But sometimes it makes it worse," she said. "I think today was a lot better and a lot more calm."
McBride twice made three straight baskets for the Irish (20-1, 8-0 Big East). The first time came as the Bearcats missed their first nine shots, falling behind 10-0 when McBride scored on a rebound and then hit a 17-foot jumper.
Lesha Dunn finally ended Cincinnati's scoreless streak with a jumper, but McBride answered quickly with a backdoor layup on a pass from Skylar Diggins. After the Bearcats cut the lead to 14-8 on a pair of free throws by Dayeesha Hollins, McBride hit three straight jumpers to spark a 17-2 run. McBride capped the run with a 3-pointer that gave the Irish a 31-10 lead.
"It's probably one of the better individual performances I've seen this season long in the Big East," Elliott said.
McBride said hitting the first shot helped her confidence.
"It's a momentum thing," she said. "It gives you energy and intensity for the rest of the things."
Kayla Cook led the Bearcats (8-13, 0-8) with 12 points.
Kaila Turner, who didn't attempt a shot in the first half, was 4-of-5 shooting in the second half with three 3-pointers to add 11 points for the Irish.
"I was really just focusing on defense and my teammates found me and I was open," Turner said. "I try to knock them down when I can."
The Bearcats opened the second half on an 8-2 run, cutting the lead to 39-23 on a baseline jumper by Dunn. But Turner hit a 3-pointer to get the Irish going again, sparking a 14-0 run. The Irish scored the last six from the free throw line. Cincinnati used a 12-2 run to close to 55-35 on a basket inside by Hollins with 4:10 left. But the Bearcats couldn't get any closer.
The victory also was the 699th career win in 31 seasons for coach Muffet McGraw, 26 coaching Notre Dame. McGraw played down the importance of her next win being No. 700, saying it's not that impressive.
"Not when you see Pat Summitt win a thousand. It seems like a pretty small number to me," she said.