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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish set to begin ACC tournament

| Thursday, March 5, 2015

No. 2 Notre Dame will begin defending its ACC title this Friday. Until then, the Irish can only wait.

Notre Dame (28-2, 15-1 ACC) ended the regular season atop the ACC for the second straight year, earning the No. 1 seed and a double bye in the conference tourney. So while other teams kicked off the ACC tournament Wednesday night, the Irish did not even leave for Greensboro, North Carolina, until that afternoon. They will not find out their opponent in the quarterfinals until Thursday night, when eighth-seeded Miami and No. 9 Virginia play in the second round.

The Irish have played the Cavaliers and Hurricanes once each this season, but with far different results.

Irish junior guard Jewell Loyd lines up a free throw in Notre Dame's 68-52 win over Louisville on Feb. 23 at Purcell Pavilion.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish junior guard Jewell Loyd lines up a free throw in Notre Dame’s 68-52 win over Louisville on Feb. 23 at Purcell Pavilion.

On Jan. 8, Notre Dame traveled to Miami and had one of its worst shooting nights of the season. The team connected on just 35.9 percent of its shots from the field and 8.3 percent from 3-point range, and the Hurricanes ran away with the 78-63 win. Not counting junior guard Jewell Loyd, the team shot just 31.8 percent and scored only 36 points.

Eight games later, the Irish hosted the Cavaliers and showed improvement on the offensive end, shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from long range. They also collected 42 rebounds and 17 assists en route to a 75-54 win. On defense, Notre Dame limited Virginia to 39 percent shooting from the field and blocked four Cavalier shots.

Freshman forward Brianna Turner chipped in two of those blocks, as well as 26 points and 13 rebounds, to lead Notre Dame. These stats were part of a rookie campaign that placed Turner in the top 15 in the ACC for points, rebounds and blocks per game. Her 11-for-14 shooting night also added to her nationally-leading field goal percentage of 68.1 percent.

Irish freshman Brianna Turner dribbles up the court in Notre Dame's 68-52 win over Louisville on Feb. 23 at Purcell Pavilion.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish freshman Brianna Turner dribbles up the court in Notre Dame’s 68-52 win over Louisville on Feb. 23 at Purcell Pavilion.

Turner earned six Freshman of the Week conference honors this season, as well as two national awards. She was named to the midseason watchlists for both the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy. And this Wednesday, she was named ACC Freshman of the Year.

“I am so grateful, humbled and honored to be named the ACC Freshman of the Year,” Turner said in a press release. “It’s really a group effort, all of us working together, and I’m just the one who is taking care of this award on behalf of my team.”

Turner is the first Irish player to win conference freshman of the year honors since Loyd was recognized by the Big East in 2013. Both Loyd and Turner were named to the all-ACC team last week, and Loyd was also honored Wednesday, as the ACC Player of the Year.

“This is such a blessing, and to earn this award along with [Turner] makes it even more special,” Loyd said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without our teammates and coaches supporting and pushing us every day in practice.”

Loyd led the ACC in scoring this season and ranked 11th in the conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. She also led all Notre Dame guards in rebounding and is one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy this year.

“[Turner and Loyd] are so determined and focused, and the hard work they put in throughout the season has shown itself in their play on the floor,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

Loyd, Turner and the rest of the Irish take the court Friday afternoon for the ACC quarterfinals to face the winner of Virginia-Miami. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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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