ND Women’s Basketball: Irish control Lucas, sink Lady Lions
Vicky Jacobsen | Thursday, December 5, 2013
The No. 4 Irish held reigning Big Ten player of the year Maggie Lucas to just seven points as Notre Dame beat No. 10 Penn State, 77-67, on Wednesday night.
The win at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center was Notre Dame’s first ever over the Lady Lions (5-2), who won the first five meetings between the two teams.
Lucas, a senior guard who was leading the Lady Lions with an average of 22 points a game heading into the contest, quickly racked up three fouls and didn’t score until the final minutes of the second half. She fouled out with 1:18 remaining in the game.
“[Sophomore guard] Jewell Loyd and [senior guard] Kayla McBride took turns guarding her,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They did just a great job defensively with a lot of help from their teammates. It was a good team defense on her.”
After several minutes of scoreless basketball, Penn State jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first five minutes of the game, but the Irish (7-0) clawed back, and with 10:53 remaining in the first half, Loyd hit a free throw that gave Notre Dame an 18-17 lead the Irish would hold onto for the rest of the game.
The Irish pulled away from the Lady Lions in the last 10 minutes of the first half, stretching their lead to as many as 19 points, and entered halftime with a 42-28 advantage.
Penn State again looked overmatched when the teams returned from halftime. Senior forward Ariel Edwards opened the second period with a three-pointer, but the Irish held the Lady Lions scoreless for the next six minutes while adding eight points of their own. But with 13:42 remaining in the game, a layup from Edwards ignited an 11-2 Penn State run that shrunk the deficit to 10 points.
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey made sure Penn State didn’t get any closer. Mabrey hit a jump shot at 9:45 and then countered two layups from Penn State senior forward Taila East with two three-pointers of her own.
“They were huge, those two back-to-back threes,” McGraw said. “We needed them desperately, and they couldn’t have come at a better time. [She had] so much poise in knocking them down.”
Free throws from Edwards cut the Notre Dame lead to as little as nine with just under four minutes remaining in the game, but Penn State could not get any closer and the Irish went home with a 10-point victory, their third over a team ranked in the top 25.
Senior Natalie Achonwa led the Irish on offense with 21 points and 10 rebounds in her fourth game since returning from a knee scope.
“I think she’s still conditioning-wise not quite there,” McGraw said, adding that Achonwa appears to be playing at approximately 90-percent of full-strength.
Freshman forward Taya Reimer added 12 points and 10 rebounds, the third double-double of her young career.
“She made a huge difference in the game. I was so, so proud of her,” McGraw said. “It was her first big road test in front of a big crowd, a TV game, and she handled herself beautifully. Just an outstanding job in every way. I was really, really happy with her game. She’s the best sixth-man in basketball right now.”
Loyd and McBride also scored in the double digits for the Irish, adding 17 and 13 points, respectively.
McGraw said she did not relish facing Penn State coach Coquese Washington, a former Notre Dame player and assistant coach.
“It was really hard to look down the sideline and see her there,” McGraw said. “I’m glad it’s over, and I’m glad we’re finished with it, and now we can move on and continue to help each other through the year.”
The Irish face a quick turnaround when they get back to campus, hosting UCLA at Purcell Pavilion at noon Saturday.
Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]