Cincinnati had no chance once Kayla McBride found her rhythm, and she found it fast.
McBride broke out of a shooting slump by making her first seven shots and scoring 17 of her 19 points in the first half as second-ranked Notre Dame jumped to an early 23-point lead and beat Cincinnati 64-42 on Saturday for their 15th straight win. 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," Cincinnati coach Jamelle 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. Hollins, the Bearcats leading scorer at 15.4 points game, was held to a season-low six points.
"I thought she had some makeable shots," Elliott said. "I thought she got to the rim a couple of times and missed some easy bunnies."
Hollins said she just struggled to make shots, going 2 for 9 from the field.
"I couldn't hit it," she said.
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.
Yet she admitted she'll be nervous when the Irish play Tuesday at Villanova. She grew up in the Philadelphia area and went to college at Saint Joseph's. She said she will have 40 to 50 people at the game, including former college teammates, as she always does.
"So it's a very stressful game for me because of all the people," she said. "So I'm going to try to not think of that part of it and just focus on trying to win the game."