ND Women’s Basketball: Loyd spearheads Irish rout
Brian Hartnett | Monday, March 25, 2013
On a Notre Dame roster full of NCAA tournament veterans, it was a postseason newcomer who led the No 2 Irish to victory.
Freshman guard Jewell Loyd had a career-high 27 points to propel the top-seeded Irish to a 97-64 victory over No. 16-seeded Tennessee-Martin on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
“You know, you go into your first NCAA tournament game, and you wonder how the freshman is going to do,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “You look back at [Loyd’s] previous career high against Baylor [on Dec. 5], and you think, she’s definitely a gamer … but you never know if she’s going to come out nervous, and she did not. She had a phenomenal game.”
Victorious in 27 consecutive games to date, Notre Dame (32-1, 16-0 Big East) set the tone of the game early, using its considerable height advantage to score points in the paint and jump out to a 14-4 lead.
But the Skyhawks (19-15, 11-5 Ohio Valley) didn’t go away quite so easily, embarking on a 7-0 run to cut the Irish lead to 20-16. Tennessee-Martin again came within four points of Notre Dame at the 8:51 mark of the first half, when junior guard Heather Butler’s free throw made it a 28-24 game.
Lloyd said the Irish were able to withstand the Skyhawks’ comeback attempts by playing strong defense.
“We just had to stay together and when we come together as a team, we play really strong and defensively,” Loyd said. “We get better at talking and stuff like that, but we played really a tough defense.”
Butler, who had 23 points in the first half, hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to reduce Notre Dame’s lead to 38-31 with 4:19 left in the half. But the Irish went on a tear after the subsequent television timeout, scoring the final 11 points of the first half to take a 49-31 lead into halftime.
“I think it was just getting our transition game going and it started on defense,” Irish junior guard Kayla McBride said of the late first-half run. “They missed a few shots, and they got our transition game going.”
After an occasionally tight first half, Notre Dame cruised in the game’s second frame. The Irish went on an 11-2 run to open the second half, widening their lead to 60-33.
The Irish never led by fewer than 18 points in the second half en route to finishing the game with a 97-64 victory.
Notre Dame dominated the game on the boards, outrebounding Tennessee-Martin 49-14. The Irish also scored 55 points in the paint, while holding the Skyhawks to only 22 points inside.
“I was really pleased with our offensive play today,” McGraw said. “I thought we got a lot of good shots, a lot of good layups and attacked their zone very efficiently.”
Butler, currently seventh in the nation in scoring, finished with a season-high 37 points to lead all scorers. Skyhawks junior guard Jasmine Newsome, the nation’s fourth-leading scorer at 22.9 points per game, was limited to 15 points in the contest.
“I thought [Butler] had probably the best individual game anybody’s had against us all season long,” McGraw said.
Notre Dame junior guard Kayla McBride finished with her first double-double of the season, recording 22 points and 10 rebounds. Junior forward Natalie Achonwa added 16 points for the Irish and scored her 1000th career point on a layup at the 18:04 mark of the second half, becoming the 32nd Notre Dame player to reach the milestone.
“I was so happy for [Achonwa] to get her thousandth point,” McGraw said. “And Kayla McBride, she’s an All-American…she’s played well all year long, very steady, very consistent and did it all tonight.”
Notre Dame will face No. 9-seeded Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Iowa City.
Contact Brian Hartnett at email@example.com