ND Women’s Basketball
Break brings six wins
Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The No. 2 Irish won all six of their games during winter break, but they had to contend with one of their most challenging opponents outside the gym.
The “polar vortex” and accompanying snowstorm that battered South Bend kept the team confined to their hotel in South Bend for nearly two days after beating Clemson, 71-51, in their first ever ACC matchup on Jan. 5.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw said her team watched plenty of movies to stave off boredom while local roads were essentially shut down, but finding food became problematic.
“It was really challenging. It was not a hotel that had a restaurant, so we had to go to the supermarket and get food and bring it back,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They were cooped up in the hotel for a few days. They made the best of it.”
But Notre Dame survived the long winter break with its No. 2-ranking and perfect record intact. The Irish returned from a weeklong break for final exams Dec. 22 with a 106-72 win over Central Michigan at Purcell Pavilion. Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd made 12 of her 15 attempted shots and scored 30 points, a career-high.
“[Loyd] played just like she did in practice, and I was very happy to see that because her effort was tremendous and her efficiency was outstanding,” McGraw said in the post-game press conference. “I thought her shot selection was excellent and [she] took a lot of good shots. When you go 12 for 15 you can’t really complain. It was a fabulous display.”
Loyd echoed McGraw’s sentiments and added that she drew confidence from her brother, who was in the stands for the game.
“It definitely helps when you have teammates telling you to shoot and you practice how you play, and I just think the momentum from yesterday’s practice carried over to the game,” Loyd said.
The Irish ran into their first real challenge of the season at Oregon State on Dec. 29. Although the Irish came back to win, 70-58, in front of a crowd of over 4,000 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore., the Beavers took a 33-31 lead into halftime. It was the first time this season that Notre Dame trailed after 20 minutes.
“We just didn’t shot the ball well; we missed easy shots,” McGraw said, referring to her team’s 36-percent shooting in the first half. “[The Beavers] were playing at home, [and] they had a great crowd. We weren’t as sharp as we usually are.”
The Irish scored the last five points of the first half and the first six points in the second period to take the lead, which they held onto for the rest of the game. Senior guard Kayla McBride led Notre Dame with 20 points.
“I think Kayla had a huge break,” McGraw said. “She’s been our most consistent scorer since Christmas.”
McBride shone again in Notre Dame’s next contest, shooting 8-for-8 and scoring 18 points in a resounding 94-51 win over South Dakota State at Purcell Pavilion on Jan. 2.
“It was just the flow of the game. My teammates were finding me in open areas and I was just hitting shots,” McBride said after the game. “It felt good as a shooter to just go out there and hit shots that I hadn’t been making recently.”
Three days later, Clemson proved a bit more troublesome. The Tigers held Notre Dame to 28 percent shooting in the first half, and the Irish led by just four points at halftime. But Jewell Loyd came alive in the second half, when she scored 12 of her 16 points, and the rest of the team followed suit, shooting 63 percent as a team. Senior forward Natalie Achonwa and McBride added 15 and 16 points, respectively, and the Irish stretched the lead to 20 points.
“They were good defensively, [and] we struggled from the three-point line,” McGraw said. “We didn’t score as much as we usually do, but we kept them at 50 points, which was our goal.”
The Irish wrapped up the home stand with a 95-53 win over Boston College on Thursday. McBride scored 20 points and added eight rebounds, and sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey hit six of her nine shots, scoring 18 points after going 0-for-12 in the previous two games. Freshman forward Taya Reimer added 15 points while Loyd scored another 14.
“I thought Taya [Reimer] had an outstanding game and was really aggressive, something she has been working towards,” McGraw said after the game. “This was a great game for her and the beginning of some great games coming up down the road.”
McGraw said she is pleased with the progress of the freshman class as a whole.
“I think the freshman are coming along really well. They’re doing so many good things for us,” McGraw said. “[Freshman guard Lindsay] Allen is so steady. We think Reimer is the best big man in basketball.”
McGraw added that the two other freshmen, forward Kristina Nelson and center Diamond Thompson, are also improving despite relatively little playing time.
The Irish finished winter break Jan. 12 with a 79-72 win over Virginia in Charlottesville, their first single-digit victory of the season.
The Irish return to ACC play against an old Big East foe on Thursday, when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center at 7 p.m.
Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]