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ND Women’s Basketball: McBride leads the way in 74-43 tournament win over Liberty

Chris Masoud | Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kayla McBride watched Notre Dame’s run to the NCAA tournament championship game from the bench in 2011. After just one tournament game in 2012, McBride is leading the charge.

The sophomore guard paced the Irish with a team-high 15 points, as Notre Dame blew past Liberty 74-43 in the opening round of the tournament Sunday afternoon.

“I think she was so anxious to play in her first [NCAA] tournament game. I actually forgot that this was her first NCAA tournament,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “She really came out well. I thought she might be nervous, but she was fine from the start … She’s such an X-factor for us. She’s so important to our success.”

McBride spurred an 11-0 Irish run from the opening tip, allowing No. 4 Notre Dame (31-3, 15-1 Big East) to jump out to an early lead it would never surrender. After back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guard Natalie Novosel and graduate student Brittany Mallory, McBride drained a free throw to complete the traditional 3-point play following a layup.

“It’s the NCAA tournament. You see all these upsets … We don’t want to be that team,” junior guard Skylar Diggins said. “We wanted to make a statement right off the tip and control the tempo right away, and I thought we did that.”

Captaining Notre Dame’s attack, Diggins finished with a team-high nine rebounds and six assists to go along with her seven points. The Irish outrebounded the Lady Flames (24-9, 16-2 Big South) 38 to 29, a significant feat considering Liberty led the nation with a plus 16.4 rebounding margin.

“[Rebounding] is an area where we’ve struggled, and it’s been a [point] of emphasis the past week,” graduate student Devereaux Peters said. “We really focused on it today and tried to box out a lot more. The guards did a good job of boxing out.”

Notre Dame advances to the round of 32, where it will face California (25-9, 13-5 Pac-12) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Purcell Pavilion.