MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — Natalie Achonwa had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead seventh-ranked Notre Dame to a 57-51 victory over No. 19 Ohio State on Friday night in the Carrier Classic.
Kayla McBride added 16 points and Skylar Diggins 11 for the Fighting Irish, who improved to 23-3 in season openers under coach Muffet McGraw. Not that it was easy in the first women's game played on an aircraft carrier — the USS Yorktown.
The Yorktown was bathed in bright sunshine at the start, leaving players on both teams squinting. Once the sun set on Charleston Harbor, the converted flight deck turned downright chilly.
None of that stopped Achonwa and Notre Dame.
Tayler Hill scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half for Ohio State.
Notre Dame built a 10-point lead over the first four minutes of the second half, Achonwa scoring from the inside to put the Fighting Irish ahead 35-25.
The Buckeyes, though, chipped all the way through the lead behind Hill's play. Her driving basket cut Notre Dame's lead to 47-43 with 4:52 to go and moments later teammate Amber Stokes stole a mid-court pass and took it in for an uncontested layup.
But Achonwa followed with a jumper to again extend the lead.
Hill, who led the Big Ten in scoring last season at 20.4 points a game, hit two foul shots with 2:30 to go that brought Ohio State as close as it would come after that, 50-47.
McBride answered for Notre Dame, extending her left arm amid several defenders for a basket. Achonwa made both ends of a one-and-one and the Fighting Irish had locked things up.
Diggins, the Irish's All-American, was 2 of 10 from the field but went 7 of 8 at the foul line.
Stokes added 10 points for Ohio State, which had won 17 straight season openers before this one. Ashley Adams finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State coach Jim Foster and McGraw both eagerly accepted the opportunity to open the season on the carrier, which served in World War II, Vietnam and recovered the astronauts of Apollo 8 in 1968 before she was decommissioned in 1970.
Both teams paid tribute to the military in their uniforms, the Buckeyes wearing a camouflage design while the Fighting Irish had camo accents down the sides with a red-white-and-blue USA on the back where their names are.
While the setting was extraordinary, the early basketball was not.
Hill missed her first five shots and was 1 of 8 in the opening half. Then again, the Buckeyes played the first 20 minutes with the bright sun in their eyes.
Notre Dame, which played into the basket in front of the carrier's massive command tower, struggled to find the basket, too, going 10 of 31 in the first half. Diggins and McBride were both off target, leading to a combined 5-for-16 performance in the period.
Still, Diggins kept shooting and her driving basket with 2:58 left put Notre Dame up 23-20. The Irish extended the lead to five points on Markisha Wright's inside shot.
Adams cut things to 25-22 at the break for Ohio State.
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