With her team struggling to put away Seton Hall, Notre Dame’s Ariel Braker stepped up.
Braker matched her career high with 15 points and Natalie Achonwa added 11 points and nine rebounds to help second-ranked Notre Dame beat Seton Hall, 69-49, Saturday in South Orange, N.J., for the Irish’s 17th straight victory.
Braker keyed a second-half spurt that turned an 8-point game into a rout.
‘‘Coming out of halftime we needed to come out with defensive intensity,’’ said Braker, who made five of her six field goal attempts and all five of her free throws.
‘‘When our defense is playing well it really sparks our offense and that’s what happened. We got a couple of easy shots.’’
Braker has been struggling with knee issues all season since having offseason surgery on her left knee.
‘‘She played really well and had a great practice, her knee felt good,’’ Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ‘‘We looked for her. I was really pleased with her game.’’
Notre Dame (22-1, 10-0 Big East) was a little out of synch early on. The Irish traveled to the area a night earlier than they had planned because of the weather.
‘‘We got out here OK, but had to leave at midnight to do it,’’ McGraw said. ‘‘We had been sitting around all day and we looked a little sluggish in practice. We gritted it out when we had to.’’
Even with the 20-point loss, it was a much better effort for Seton Hall than the last few meetings with the Irish. Last season the Pirates (8-15, 3-7) trailed, 49-16, at the half and lost, 74-36.
This time, hot shooting kept them in it for 20 minutes. The Irish held a 35-28 lead at the half after scoring 17 of the first 21 points. Seton Hall hit five 3-pointers in the first half to keep it close.
Baylor 75, Texas 48 — Odyssey Sims scored 18 points and Brittney Griner sparked the No. 1 Lady Bears (22-1, 12-0 Big 12) during a game-clinching second-half run with her 13th career dunk in an easy victory over the host Longhorns (9-13, 2-9).
Griner’s dunk was the lone highlight for the 6-foot-8-inch All-American forward, who otherwise had a mostly forgettable game. Griner had just 2 points in the first half and didn’t have a rebound until midway through the second half.
Griner finished with 14 points and three rebounds. Jordan Madden scored 11 points for Baylor .
Louisville 78, Pittsburgh 45 — Shoni Schimmel led five Cardinals in double figures with 22 points and Megan Deines scored 17 off the bench as No. 11 Louisville (20-4, 8-2 Big East) sailed at home for its sixth win in a row.
Pittsburgh (9-14, 0-10), led by Brianna Kiesel’s 14 points, made just 7 of 24 shots in the opening half.
The Panthers committed 26 turnovers that the Cardinals turned into 27 points.
The Panthers held a 34-32 rebounding advantage but received just 11 points from their bench.
Iowa State 87, Kansas State 71 — Chelsea Poppens had 22 points and 18 rebounds, and Hallie Christofferson led all scorers with 25 points to pace the No. 25 Cyclones at home. Iowa State (17-5, 8-4 Big 12) won its third in a row.
BU 73, Binghamton 51 — The visiting Terriers reached 20 wins for the second straight year and had five players score in double figures for the first time since the 2010-11 season. BU (20-4, 10-1 America East) scored the first 7 points and led by as many as 21 in the second half.
Whitney Turner led BU with a career-high 14 points. Rashidat Agboola added 13 points and 10 boards, Kristen Sims and Danielle Callahan each had 11 points, and Chantell Alford finished with 10 points and six assists.
No players for Binghamton (4-20, 3-8) reached double digits in points.
Albany 86, Maine 54 — The Black Bears were no match for the visiting Great Danes (20-3), who improved to 11-0 in America East. Ashleigh Roberts carried Maine (2-21, 1-9) with 20 points, but the hosts shot just 36.2 percent from the field.
UMBC 71, Vermont 55 — Raven Harris had a game-high 21 points for the Retrievers (8-16, 4-7 America East) in Baltimore, while Tierra Shumpert topped the Catamounts (7-16, 4-6) with 13 points. Vermont has lost four straight.
Princeton 68, Brown 37 — Megan Bowen scored 12 points and Niveen Rasheed had 10 points and six steals to power the visiting Tigers (13-5, 4-0 Ivy) over the Bears (7-12, 1-4), who received a 17-point effort from Sheila Dixon.
Rutgers 55, Cincinnati 46 — C. Vivian Stringer earned her 899th coaching win as the Scarlet Knights (14-8, 5-4 Big East) rallied from a 7-point halftime deficit to beat the visiting Bearcats (8-15, 0-10).
Stringer is on the cusp of becoming the fourth women’s coach to win 900 games. Pat Summitt holds the NCAA record with 1,098, while Jody Conradt and Sylvia Hatchell each have 900.