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ND Women’s Basketball

Sant-Miller: ‘Big Three’ stand among elite (Feb. 25)

| Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When you hear the phrase “The Big Three,” you think LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. Sure, that’s fair, but

 

Irish senior guard Kayla McBride drives to the basket during Notre Dame’s 101-64 win over Syracuse on Feb. 9. John Ning

Irish senior guard Kayla McBride drives to the basket during Notre Dame’s 101-64 win over Syracuse on Feb. 9.

No. 2 Notre Dame carries its own, though often overlooked, “Big Three.”

This season, the Irish (27-0, 14-0 ACC) have been led to the best start in program history by senior guard Kayla McBride, senior forward Natalie Achonwa and sophomore guard Jewell Loyd.

You can pick whatever storyline you like.

McBride, who leads the team in assists and is second in scoring, is a talented scorer who can score in too many ways to defend. As a big game player, the senior has averaged 21.8 points, 4.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds in Notre Dame’s five games against top opponents, No. 7 Duke, No. 9 Maryland, No. 8 Penn State and No. 10 Tennessee. These performances are highlighted by her career-high 31-point game against Duke on Sunday.

The youngest of the three, Loyd is unbelievably athletic, combining dynamic scoring with lockdown defense. This season, the reigning USBWA freshman of the year leads the Irish in scoring and is second in rebounding. Though often highlighted as the team’s top scorer and a skilled offensive threat, Loyd also leads the team in steals and may be Notre Dame’s best on-ball defender. On Sunday, she was matched against the Duke’s top scorer, senior guard Tricia Liston. Though Liston averages 18.1 points per game, Loyd held her to just nine points.

Often overlooked is team tri-captain Achonwa, a talented post player who leads the team in rebounding. Last season, the senior nearly averaged a double-double and has bounced back from an early season knee surgery this year. Achonwa combines a 6-foot-3 frame with impressive mobility and highly developed scoring skills, shooting 60 percent from the field this season.

Which storyline did you choose? No matter the player, you picked one of the NCAA’s finest. On a team predicated on depth and balance, Loyd, Achonwa and McBride stand out as three of the best players in the nation.

Yet, it’s Notre Dame’s depth and balance that will prevent these three athletes from getting the recognition they deserve. With so many talented players, three players cannot get all the fame; there is only one ball. Furthermore, the Irish not only carry a talented roster but a generous one as well. This season Notre Dame is second in the nation in assists, averaging 21.3 a game.

Regardless, the best players always find their way into the stat sheet. Only once this season did Loyd, Achonwa or McBride not lead the team in scoring. In Notre Dame’s dominant 90-48 victory over UCLA on Dec. 7, junior guard Madison Cable led the Irish with 21 points. In every other game this year, one of the “Big Three” has led the team in points.

The funny part is, if you send them this praise, they’ll shine the spotlight elsewhere, highlighting their gifted teammates. In all fairness, that’s a just spotlight to shine on one of the strongest, if not the strongest, teams in the nation from top to bottom.

Still, when all is said and done, when talking about this year’s campaign, Notre Dame’s “Big Three” deserve recognition as three of the nation’s elite.

 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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