Dec. 29, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -Ashley Barlow had 17 points, Brittany Mallory scored 16 and No. 3 Notre Dame overcame a slow start to beat Central Florida 85-52 on Tuesday.

Barlow's layup as time expired in the first half highlighted a 13-0 run by the Fighting Irish that turned a tight game into a blowout, smothering the Knights with a full-court press that forced 36 turnovers. Notre Dame (11-0) extended the second-best start in the program's 33-year history.

Marshay White had 12 points, and D'Nay Daniels added 10 points for the Knights (3-6), who were going for one of the biggest wins in school history. Instead, they lost for the third time this season to a ranked opponent.

The sparse black and gold crowd were treated to a fast start by the Knights, with the home team trading baskets for most of the first half. White's 3-pointer cut Notre Dame's lead to 31-29. But the celebration was short-lived.

The relentless full-court pressure by the Fighting Irish overwhelmed the Knights. Notre Dame's back court caused errant passes, quick shots and endless turnovers.

Skylar Diggins had five points as the Fighting Irish scored 13 straight before intermission. They scored the first two baskets of the second half, going ahead 48-29 as some of the fans who traveled with Notre Dame for the holiday break cheered "Let's Go Irish."

It was the first game for Notre Dame after a nine-day break for the holidays.

Only the 2000-01 team got off to a better start, beginning the season with 23 wins on the way to a 34-2 record and the program's first national championship.

Perhaps the Fighting Irish wanted to make a statement.

They remained at No. 3 in the AP Poll even after second-ranked Stanford lost to top-ranked Connecticut last week. Stanford fell from being a unanimous No. 2, but still remained 19 points ahead of Notre Dame.