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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish look for redemption against Georgia Tech

| Thursday, February 19, 2015

The last time No. 4 Notre Dame faced off with Georgia Tech on Jan. 22, Irish coach Muffet McGraw dished out some scathing words to her team after an 89-76 win.

Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Allen jumps and extends for a layup attempt during Notre Dame’s 63-50 win against Duke on Monday.Sarah Olson | The Observer

Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Allen jumps and extends for a layup attempt during Notre Dame’s 63-50 win against Duke on Monday.

The Irish (24-2, 11-1 ACC) will see just how far they have come in a month when they meet the Yellow Jackets (14-12, 4-8) tonight at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.

The home win over Georgia Tech was the second game in January in which Notre Dame showed serious vulnerabilities, the other being a Jan. 8 loss at Miami (Fla.).

However, Notre Dame has bested opponents by an average of 22.2 points since the Georgia Tech game, and its 13-point win over Duke on Monday was the smallest margin of victory since then.

“I think we’ve come a long way since early in the conference season,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said after the Duke game. “We’re playing great basketball; we’re playing together. I think everybody’s starting to get comfortable. The freshmen look a lot more comfortable, so I think we’ve coming a really long way.”

In the most recent win over the Blue Devils, Irish junior guard Jewell Loyd — who was named to the Naismith Trophy women’s midseason 30 list last week, along with freshman forward Brianna Turner — tallied a game-high 21 points, 12 of those coming on four 3-pointers.

Those 21 points brought her 2014-2015 scoring total to 538, helping her become the fastest player to accumulate 500 points in a season in Notre Dame history. Her 20.7 points per game also lead the ACC.

Irish junior Jewell Loyd looks to pass the ball during Notre Dame’s 63-50 win over Duke on Monday at the Purcell Pavilion. Loyd leads Notre Dame in scoring this season with 20.7 points per game.Sarah Olson | The Observer

Irish junior Jewell Loyd looks to pass the ball during Notre Dame’s 63-50 win over Duke on Monday at the Purcell Pavilion. Loyd leads Notre Dame in scoring this season with 20.7 points per game.

Even with an All-American distinction and national freshman of the year award under her belt after her first two seasons, Loyd said she has noticed a change in how she approaches the game as a junior.

“I just think that I’m more passionate — I want it more,” she said after the Duke game. “I’ve had some great mentors before who really preached that. … When I get on the floor, I just want to have fun. I want to compete every single night.”

McGraw said Loyd’s improvement has extended to defense as well, where she has posted Notre Dame’s second most steals (43) and third most defensive rebounds (95).

“She’s fighting screens a lot better,” McGraw said. “I think she’s communicating a lot more, and her lockdown faceguard is a lot better than it was last year.”

The Yellow Jackets will bring their own Naismith candidate to McCamish Pavilion in sophomore guard Kaela Davis. Davis’ 20.2 points per game sit in third place in the conference behind Loyd and Wake Forest senior forward Dearica Hamby.

Joining Davis in the Georgia Tech starting lineup is junior forward Roddreka Rogers, whose 60-percent field-goal percentage trails only Turner’s 68 percent mark in the ACC.

Davis led the Yellow Jackets with 24 points in their first game against the Irish despite getting into foul trouble.

Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd dribbles the ball on offense against Duke in a 63-50 win on Monday at the Purcell Pavilion. Loyd scored a game-high 21 points and tallied five assists on the night.Sarah Olson | The Observer

Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd dribbles the ball on offense against Duke in a 63-50 win on Monday at the Purcell Pavilion. Loyd scored a game-high 21 points and tallied five assists on the night.

Georgia Tech sits fifth in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 73.5 points per game. But its defense ranks 12th out of 15 teams, giving up 68.3 points per night, a stat that fares well for an Irish offense that leads the ACC with 84.0 points per game.

Even though Notre Dame has already collected a win against the Yellow Jackets this season despite a poor defensive performance, McGraw said her players need to keep their focus through their final four regular-season contests.

“Every game is important,” she said. “The most important game is the next one up, and we’ve got to look at it that way: every single game matters from here on out. We’re focused on the next game.”

The Irish and Yellow Jackets tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.

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