ND Women’s Basketball
Loyd paces Notre Dame to road win
Greg Hadley | Wednesday, November 19, 2014
No. 3 Notre Dame weathered its first test of the young season Wednesday night, holding on to beat No. 15 Michigan State, 71-63, in East Lansing, Michigan.
The victory marked the 27th straight win on the road for the Irish (2-0), but it did not come easily, as the two teams remained within five points of each other for most of the night. It was a learning experience for a young team, still in need of developing, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.“I thought we handled [the environment] very well,” McGraw said. “To beat a ranked team on the road, with this team, we had to gut it out … ”
Foul trouble early in the first half hampered the Irish offense, as four starters — junior guard Jewell Loyd, sophomore forward Taya Reimer, sophomore guard Lindsay Allen and freshman forward Brianna Turner — all collected two fouls or more. Three players were whistled four times and the Irish were forced to go deep into their rotation, playing nine players for 10 or more minutes.
“We got into such serious foul trouble,” McGraw said. “We went very deep on the bench, playing with a lot of different combinations that we haven’t really seen in practice enough. … Discipline is the biggest problem. We’re young. We made some bad plays. We need to be in better position defensively. We need to rotate better. We need to be in position to take charges and need to box out. There were a lot of mistakes.”
On the boards, the Spartans (1-1) edged the Irish 48-42, and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, nearly six more than opponents collected against Notre Dame last season.
With players circulating in and out due to foul trouble, the Irish offense struggled to find its rhythm, shooting 37.7 percent from the field and 15.4 from behind the arc. The team also only collected eight assists on 26 field goals.
“We just didn’t play our game,” McGraw said. “We normally like to run, we have a lot of assists, and we only had eight assists … that’s not our game at all. We weren’t working the pass enough, we weren’t looking to pass the ball enough. We had a lot more individual efforts on offense.”
Loyd in particular powered Notre Dame’s attack in the first half, scoring 16 of the team’s 29 points to keep the Irish close, 30-29. None of her baskets were assisted. During the first half, the Spartans and the Irish traded the lead five times, with four ties.
Turner, on the other hand, entered the matchup coming off a record-breaking debut against UMass-Lowell on Friday, but had a rough start Wednesday night, not scoring in the entire first half but getting called for four fouls all game. However, she exploded at the start of the second stanza, pouring in 10 points in just over three minutes.
“It’s just difficult to get in a rhythm when you’re out there for a few minutes and then you’re in foul trouble again,” McGraw said. “I think that was a problem for really everyone. Brianna [Turner] played longer stretches than [Reimer and freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld] and that was probably why she played a little better.”
Meanwhile, Loyd slowed slightly in the second half, tallying 12 points, but she still ended the game with 28 points and 11 rebounds, both of which led the Irish. She shot 10-for-25 from the field but made eight of 10 from the free-throw line.
“I thought she carried us in the beginning of the game,” McGraw said. “She recognized that with the quick foul trouble we were in, we really needed her to step up and she did. She did that with her defense, she did that with her layups, she looked to score anyway she could. Of course, down the stretch we want the ball in her hands and she came through for us.”
The Spartans fared little better on offense, shooting 36.7 from the field. They also struggled mightily from the free throw line, going 15 for 28. Redshirt sophomore forward Aerial Powers led the way for Michigan State, registering 27 points and 11 rebounds, but also missing five of 12 free throws.
The win kicks off a five-day stretch for the Irish in which they will play four games, starting with a Friday night matchup with Chattanooga. The Mocs (2-1) have won 13 straight on the road, most recently knocking off Butler, 76-47, on Wednesday night. The team is led by sophomore forward Jasmine Joyner, who averages 14 points and 12 rebounds per game, both team-highs.
“There are a lot of things we can learn from [Michigan State],” Irish associate coach Beth Cunningham said. “It’s early in the season and I think we need to keep improving every chance we get.”
Notre Dame and Chattanooga square off Friday night at 5 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.