SOUTH BEND, Ind. – SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Whether it was Joe Mullaney or Harry Perretta coaching Villanova, the Wildcats wouldn't have been able to do much against No. 2 Notre Dame.
Devereaux Peters singlehandedly outscored Villanova and finished with 19 points, and Skylar Diggins had 20 as Notre Dame cruised to a 76-43 victory over Villanova on Saturday.
Mullaney was filling in as coach while Perretta was at a family funeral. He planned to return to the team Sunday.
"I've substituted for Coach about 12 times," Mullaney said. "Unfortunately, it is usually a ranked team. There isn't a lot of preparation difference because I handle a lot of the preparation the day before, anyway. Obviously, there is probably slippage from him not being the coach because they are used to hearing his voice, but it is a lot of the same things.
"All in all, the difference (in the game) might have been we would have lost by 23 instead of 33."
Peters outscored the Wildcats 17-16 in the first half — the Irish led 44-16 — and Notre Dame (19-1, 7-0 in the Big East) defended its home floor. Villanova fell to 12-7, and 2-4 in the conference.
Heading into the contest, the Wildcats led the nation in fewest turnovers (averaging 9.4) but the quick-handed Irish forced them into 20. Meanwhile, Notre Dame did not commit a turnover for the first 15 minutes of the contest and ended with nine.
Notre Dame led 44-16 at halftime and limited the Wildcats to 1-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats were without leading scorer Laura Sweeney (15.3 points per game and 8.2 rebounds) for much of the game. She picked up three quick fouls in the first half and ended up playing only 15 minutes and scoring only 10 points. Rachel Roberts led the Wildcats with 14.
Sweeney picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of play and the Irish burst out to a 23-7 lead after seven minutes. Mullaney put her back in at that point and 90 seconds later, Sweeney had her third foul.
"Sweeney playing only 15 minutes was a big blow for us," Mullaney said. "I took a risk putting her back in (with two fouls in the first half), but I felt like we needed to get some scoring. But she picked up her third and that hurt us offensively."
Mullaney said that Notre Dame is a real contender to win a national title.
"Their starting five is very good and they are much deeper than they have been in the past," Mullaney said. "They have the capability of winning the whole thing this year. They are very smart and can do a lot of things defensively to disrupt you."
The Irish host Tennessee on Monday.
"This game was a hard game to play before Tennessee," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I think these two teams are the antithesis of each other. We learned nothing today that we are going to use against Tennessee. Certainly, offensively, it is going to be a different flow."