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ND Women’s Basketball

Second season begins

| Thursday, March 6, 2014

Forget the perfect regular season. Forget the all-ACC honors. Forget the high-powered, top-ranked offense. As No. 2 Notre Dame enters the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C. on Friday, all that matters for Irish coach Muffet McGraw is keeping her squad focused on the road ahead as the Irish (29-0, 16-0 ACC) enter the postseason.

Junior guard Madison Cable line up a 3-point shot during Notre Dame's 100-75 win over North Carolina on Feb. 27. Jodi Lo

Junior guard Madison Cable line up a 3-point shot during Notre Dame’s 100-75 win over North Carolina on Feb. 27.

As the No. 1 seed in the tournament and the regular season conference champions, the Irish earned a double bye into the quarterfinals, meaning that they will not play until Friday. They will play either eighth-seeded Miami or ninth-seeded Florida State, who face off Thursday at 2 p.m.

“I think the ACC is the toughest league in women’s basketball and we’ve had some great battles that have prepared us for the postseason,” McGraw said.

The Irish defeated Miami (16-13, 8-8) at home on Jan. 23, 79-51, then rolled past Florida State (19-10, 7-9) with an 81-60 victory on the road two weeks later on Feb. 6, as part of a grueling ACC schedule that began on Jan. 5 and has continued uninterrupted since.

“It’s a long season,” McGraw said. “We haven’t had a weekend day off since early December. I think this team has been able to focus on the road and been ready for every game. The leadership has been phenomenal all season and we play with an unselfish attitude.”

That unselfish attitude has shown in the offensive balance of the Irish, who rank second in the nation in assists per game and have three players that average over ten points.

“I love the balance,” McGraw said. “If we have a game where one of our top scorers comes out and isn’t playing so great, we know that we can pick up the slack. We have great contributions off the bench from [sophomore guard] Michaela Mabrey, who has had a fantastic year, and [freshman forward] Taya Reimer. We have the depth we’ve never had before.”

Notre Dame is entering their first ACC championship and will play on a neutral court in Greensboro after playing last year’s Big East championship on Connecticut’s home court.

“We’re really excited about [playing in the ACC championship] because we have heard a lot about it,” McGraw said. “First, the neutral court is something that we have not experienced in a long time, and that will make for a great, friendly atmosphere that we have not experienced in a while.”

The Irish will also begin the tournament with a little added confidence. Senior guard Kayla McBride, senior forward Natalie Achonwa and sophomore guard Jewell Loyd were named to the all-ACC team on Tuesday, and McGraw was voted the ACC coach of the year on Wednesday.

“I love the way Jewell and Kayla compete,” McGraw said. “We try to match them up in practice and they really go at it. They both have so much competitiveness and pride. They’ve made each other better and there’s no real rivalry between them, but they make each other better and that has made us much better too.”

The Irish begin ACC tournament play on Friday at 2 p.m., in Greensboro, N.C., against either Miami or Florida State.

Contact Greg Hadley at ghadley@nd.edu

About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

Contact Greg