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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish take down No. 8 Maryland, 87-83

| Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The No. 2 Irish accelerated to a large early lead then overcame a slow second-half start on their way to an 87-83 win over No. 8 Maryland on Monday in College Park, Md., to remain undefeated this season.

Notre Dame (19-0, 6-0 ACC) slowed down Maryland (16-3, 4-2) by limiting Terrapins senior forward Alyssa Thomas to 10 points in the first half. Thomas sparked a comeback for Maryland by scoring 10 more points in the first four minutes of the second half, but the Irish scored just enough to hang on for the win.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw told reporters after the game that she was not entirely happy, despite the win.

“If it’s possible to be disappointed after a [win], I would say that’s how I’m feeling right now,” McGraw told reporters. “I thought we completely lost our poise, which is so unusual for us.”

Irish sophomore guard Jewell Loyd led the charge for Notre Dame with 31 points on 12-for-20 shooting in her first game back from a knee injury. Twenty of those points came in the first half.

With 3:18 left in the game, sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey drained a 3-pointer that put Notre Dame up 78-74. Maryland proceeded to trade points with the Irish into the final minute of the game. The Irish led 85-83 before senior guard Kayla McBride put the game out of reach with a long jumper. The shot secured the game for Notre Dame with 11 seconds left.

“We made some big shots when we had to,” McGraw said. “We certainly weren’t going to get any stops. That was the only way we were going to win, to outscore them.”

Despite foul trouble for two of Notre Dame’s top scorers — McBride and senior forward Natalie Achonwa — the Irish went to the locker room at halftime with a 47-35 lead.

In the first half, Achonwa played only three minutes and didn’t score. She put up seven points and three rebounds for the game, while McBride recovered from foul trouble to provide 20 points.

Maryland chipped away at Notre Dame’s lead in the second half and tied the game at 62 with just over 10 minutes left to play, but the Irish prevented the Terrapins from building a large lead.

Notre Dame could not rebuild a big advantage but held on to close out the game, although the Terrapins outscored the Irish 48-40 in the second half. Overall, Notre Dame shot 58.5 percent from the field, compared to 48.5 percent for Maryland.

Terrapins coach Brenda Frese praised her team’s effort to make a second-half comeback.

“Like I told them in the locker room, I loved their fight,” Frese told reporters. “I thought we showed a lot of character, especially when we were down the deficit we were down.”

Thomas scored 29 points and snagged 12 rebounds for the Terrapins. In addition to Thomas, senior center Alicia DeVaughn and junior guard Laurin Mincy scored in double figures, with 16 points and 11 points, respectively.

Maryland forced 17 turnovers from Notre Dame, but it was not enough to overcome the first-half deficit, Frese said.

“We lost this game in the first half,” Frese said. “Notre Dame came in and showed their experience, showed their poise early and late down the stretch, hitting big shot after big shot.”

The Irish return to Purcell Pavilion for an ACC matchup Thursday against Virginia Tech at 7 p.m.

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