ND Women’s Basketball
Irish close out home slate with win over Pittsburgh
Renee Griffin | Friday, February 27, 2015
No. 4 Notre Dame routed Pittsburgh, 87-59, on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion, clinching a No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament and a share of first place in the conference.
The matchup marked Senior Night and the final regular-season home game for the Irish (27-2, 14-1 ACC). Senior forward Markisha Wright started and went 6-for-6 for 14 points along with five rebounds against the Panthers (18-10, 8-7 ACC) for her highest point total since December 2012.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw had high praise for all three seniors who started the game — Wright and senior guards Whitney Holloway and Madison Cable.
“That was an unusual Senior Night,” McGraw said. “I thought we got off to a great start, which doesn’t usually happen. I think the seniors did a fantastic job, especially [Holloway] and [Wright]. [Wright] was really, really focused and came in ready, and I thought just played really well.”
The other top performers for Notre Dame were junior guard Jewell Loyd, who totaled 16 points, freshman forward Brianna Turner with 15 points and nine rebounds, sophomore guard Lindsay Allen with 13 points and eight assists and sophomore forward Taya Reimer with 10 points.
Turner said Wright’s dominance early in the game was something she tried to emulate with her own performance.
“[Wright] is just an inspiring person, honestly,” Turner said. “Just seeing her duck in and get wide-open layups, I wanted to go in and do the same thing. [She] is always there to tell me where to be and help me out.”
Despite a close first few minutes, Notre Dame went into halftime with a 40-27 lead and widened the gap to as much as 31 points in the second half, going more than 10 minutes without missing a shot.
“We were just in a groove. I think the energy level was very high,” Loyd said. “When you see your teammates making shots, it just gets contagious. We love cheering each other on, and it’s just great to see.”
Overall, the Irish shot 62.7 percent to Pittsburgh’s 36.4. Panthers coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said that at one point, Pittsburgh senior guard Brianna Kiesel — who scored 27 points in the game — compared Notre Dame’s shooting to “throwing tennis balls in the ocean.”
Loyd said the team’s motivation lay in making the Senior Night positive for the Irish veterans.
“For us, we wanted to play for our seniors,” Loyd said. “They bust their butts and play so hard every single day. We wanted to send them out the right way, and I think we did that.”
McGraw commended the contributions of the seniors both on and off the court during their time at Notre Dame.
“They have been incredibly dependable and stable,” McGraw said. “They are the group that has never been in trouble. We’ve always been able to count on them academically; we’ve never had to have a meeting with any of them because they’re always right on whatever they’re supposed to be doing. They’ve been exceptional role models for this team.”
While Notre Dame secured the top seed in the conference tournament, it needs a win at North Carolina State on Sunday to win the ACC outright.
“We haven’t won it yet,” McGraw said. “We’ll see what happens on Sunday. That was our goal, to finish first in the regular season, and we need to finish strong. … We always have something to fix. I want to always be playing well enough to beat the best team on our schedule, and we’re not quite there yet.”
Notre Dame takes on North Carolina State at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Sunday at 2 p.m. in its regular-season finale.