ND Women’s Basketball
After slow start, Loyd’s perimeter play paces Irish to win
Mary Green | Tuesday, February 17, 2015
There’s something about a 3-pointer that fires up a crowd, and the long-distance shot was exactly what fueled No. 4 Notre Dame to a 63-50 victory over No. 10 Duke on Monday at Purcell Pavilion.
Junior guard Jewell Loyd hit four of her eight attempts from behind the arc, and senior guard Madison Cable added three more. Sophomore guard Lindsay Allen and junior guard Michaela Mabrey rounded out Notre Dame’s sharpshooting with a make each in the victory, which helped the Irish (24-2, 11-1 ACC) retain their hold on first place in the ACC.
The Blue Devils (19-7, 10-3), on the other hand, missed all 12 of their attempts from behind the arc, the first time they have failed to hit from deep all season.
The Irish had not played a game since a Feb. 8 win over Boston College, and they showed some early rust, as the Blue Devils won the opening tip and climbed out to a quick 14-5 advantage.
“We were back on our heels a bit, and maybe the week layoff wasn’t as good as I thought it was gonna be,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “Offensively, [Duke] went right inside, looking for some mismatches, and on our man-to-man defense, we had some mismatches, and they took advantage of it.”
But the Irish started to get hot from behind the arc, and a string of 3-pointers from Loyd, Cable and Allen in a three-minute span helped turn the tide. Cable was able to put up her attempt right as the shot clock hit zero to give Notre Dame its first lead of the night, which it never lost.
“At one point, I think with every shot we took, it felt like they were going in, and we were hot for a little bit there,” Cable said.
Loyd led all players with 21 points, but McGraw said her contributions on the defensive end were what really propelled the Irish. Loyd matched up with Blue Devils redshirt freshman guard Rebecca Greenwell and limited her to four points, well below her 14.2 season average.
“I was really, really happy with the job that Jewell Loyd did on Rebecca Greenwell,” McGraw said. “[Greenwell] didn’t get much of a clean look all night long and held her under her average. I thought her defensive intensity and focus was phenomenal.”
One of the biggest challenges facing the Irish coming into the game was the matchup on the boards. The Blue Devils lead the nation in rebounding margin and sit fourth in defensive rebounds.
Duke grabbed the game’s first six rebounds, but the Irish had a 19-18 advantage at half, with Cable pulling down six and freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld coming off the bench to grab seven, allowing the Irish to head into the break with a 34-24 lead.
“Just knowing coming in that there were some big girls and obviously that they we’re gonna have a height advantage and that they were leading rebounding in the country, so you’ve got to come in with some toughness right away,” Westbeld said. “That’s just my mindset right when I came in, to just have high energy and be ready to box out.”
The Blue Devils held a significant size advantage over the Irish. They started four players 6-foot-1 or taller, including 6-foot-3 senior center Elizabeth Williams, who led Duke with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Notre Dame, on the other hand, started three players 5-foot-10 or shorter.
By the 14-minute mark of the second half, however, Notre Dame opened a 10-point lead that never fell to single digits.
“I just don’t think we were consistent,” Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I think at times, we were strong, dominant, and I think it waned a little bit. … We did win the board battle and the offensive rebounding battle, but we also didn’t convert the offensive rebounds. If you give us some free throws and a few offensive rebound conversions, this is a different game.”
With their lead in the ACC extended to one game over Florida State and Louisville, the Irish return to action Thursday for a road matchup with Georgia Tech in Atlanta.