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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish to face Cowgirls in Sweet Sixteen

| Friday, March 28, 2014

This weekend, No. 2 Notre Dame will play in a sold-out Purcell Pavilion for the NCAA regional semifinals, as Notre Dame will host No. 21 Oklahoma State on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Irish sophomore guard Jewell Loyd goes up for a jumpshot during Notre Dame's 93-42 win over Robert Morris in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Mar. 22.Jodi Lo | The Observer
Irish sophomore guard Jewell Loyd goes up for a jumpshot during Notre Dame’s 93-42 win over Robert Morris in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Mar. 22.

“Playing at home is huge and it’s just a comfort thing for us, especially for some of our younger players,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think it’s going to be a great first-time regional experience [for them] because of the crowd, which I think will be predominately Notre Dame fans. At least, I hope so.”

This season, the Irish (34-0, 16-0 ACC) scored 86.7 points per game, which was the second-best mark in the NCAA. In points allowed, Notre Dame finished 48th in the NCAA.

“We’re always trying to get better defensively, which has been a focus for us all year,” McGraw said. “Our rebounding was really a little disappointing last game, so those are the two things we’re really focusing on this week. It’s a little bit of everything, though, with a little bit more rest now. We’ll gear up more toward the end of the week.”

Oklahoma State (25-8, 11-7 Big 12), is a fifth seed coming off a 73-66 victory over fourth-seeded Purdue on Monday. Sophomore guard Brittney Martin led the Cowgirls, finishing the game with 20 points and 20 rebounds.

“They are really good and are just a really athletic team,” McGraw said. “They’ve got great shooters, great scorers and a great inside game. I mean, you don’t get to this point in the tournament without having a lot of talent. They certainly have that.”

This season, Oklahoma State senior guard Tiffany Bias led the team in scoring and in assists, averaging 13.8 points and 6.1 assists per game. Yet, Bias left the game Monday with 14:04 left to play after stepping on another player’s foot. She was able to re-enter the game at the 2:45 mark.

“Bias is a phenomenal point guard and she really makes them go as a team,” McGraw said. “I think it was just a sprained ankle, so we’re predicting that she’ll play. We have to plan on her playing.”

For Notre Dame, sophomore guard Jewell Loyd and senior guard Kayla McBride lead the team, averaging 18.4 and 17.4 points per game, respectively. In Notre Dame’s 84-67 win over ninth-seeded Arizona State on Monday, McBride scored 22 points and finished with nine assists.

“[McBride] is just so poised,” McGraw said. “She wasn’t making her shots, so she decided to be more of a passer. Then, she goes ahead and gets nine assists; she’s passing the ball so well this year. Defensively, she’s doing a lot of good things and her complete game has really been phenomenal this year.”

Despite McBride’s strong play, McGraw said the team is looking for more of a team-based approach against Oklahoma State, as Loyd, McBride and senior forward Natalie Achonwa accounted for 66 of Notre Dame’s 84 points on Monday.

“I think we’re looking for more contributions off the bench,” McGraw said. “I thought [junior guard] Madison Cable gave us some pretty good minutes. She had a very good first and second round. [Sophomore guard] Michaela Mabrey has been great for us all year as a 3-point shooter, and, of course, we have [freshman forward] Taya Reimer. I think we’re expecting big things from all of them.”

The Irish tip off their Sweet 16 game against Oklahoma State at 2:30 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

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