ND Women’s Basketball
Achonwa leads Notre Dame over Florida State
Greg Hadley | Thursday, February 6, 2014
Riding two big runs and strong play in the paint from senior forward Natalie Achonwa, No. 2 Notre Dame rolled past Florida State, 81-60, to stay unbeaten on the season Thursday night.
Achonwa led all scorers with 24 points, 15 of which came in the first half. The Irish (22-0, 9-0 ACC) and the Seminoles (15-7, 3-6) traded baskets early before Notre Dame went on a 15-2 run to take a 27-13 lead.
“Our game plan was to go inside against their zone, and Natalie responded very well to that,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We were able to get her the ball in great positions and she was able to finish beautifully and do a great job against their zone.”
Notre Dame was also able to limit all-American senior forward Natasha Howard to 11 points and eight rebounds, both below her season averages of 18.2 and nine, respectively.
Florida State managed to respond with a 16-4 run of its own to close the half, pulling within three points of Notre Dame. Senior guard Cheetah Delgado led the way for the Seminoles, finishing the game with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Seminoles nearly completed their comeback at the beginning of the second half, coming within one point of the Irish, but sophomore guard Jewell Loyd sparked a 24-5 run for Notre Dame that put the game out of reach.
“Jewell Loyd had just a phenomenal second half,” McGraw said. “She was a highlight reel all on her own. She had some fantastic shots and scored in so many ways, [especially] off of offensive rebounds. She really came alive in the second half.”
Loyd finished with 18 points, 14 of which were scored in the second half, as well as five rebounds and two assists. The Irish runs came as a result of their tough defense, McGraw said.
“We were able to get some stops and some rebounds, which helped us get our transition game going,” McGraw said. “Our nice runs offensively really happened because of … the defense.”
McGraw said she was still displeased her team’s effort on the boards. The Irish rank eighth in the country in rebounding margin with a mark of 11.2, but were outrebounded 38-33 by the Seminoles.
“I was very disappointed with how much they outrebounded us,” McGraw said. “They had 17 offensive rebounds. We just could not contain them and I really thought we could have been better on that end.”
As the game wound down, McGraw deployed her bench to hold the lead, playing all 13 players on her roster.
With the victory, the Irish pushed their record to 22-0, one win away from the best start in program history, set by the national championship 2000-2001 squad. They return home to play Syracuse on Sunday with the chance to tie that mark and also keep a perfect ACC record.
The Orange (17-6, 6-4) have struggled on the road this season, posting a record of 3-4, but defeated No. 18 Texas A&M early on in the season.
“Syracuse is a very good, athletic team,” McGraw said. “[Sophomores] Brittney Sikes and Brianna Butler are two of the best guards in the conference. They score the ball very well and are very tough defensively. They press on defense and can make big shots on offense, so we don’t have any time to rest. We need to be ready for them.”
The Irish look to equal the best start in program history when they take on Syracuse in Purcell Pavilion at 3 p.m. on Sunday.