ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame tops NC State, clinches ACC regular-season title
Renee Griffin | Tuesday, March 3, 2015
No. 4 Notre Dame closed out the regular season with a 67-60 win at North Carolina State on Sunday, clinching the ACC title outright for the second year in a row.
The Irish (28-2, 15-1 ACC) led by single digits for much of the first half with North Carolina State (16-13, 7-9) using solid defense and rebounding to limit the Irish. The Wolfpack forced 21 Irish turnovers.
“Their defense was exceptional, very quick guards, but we were careless with the ball and made a lot of bad decisions,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “That’s probably the most disappointing thing coming out of the game, was that number of turnovers. We didn’t get enough shots. We only got 50 shots because we turned it over so much. We’ve just gotta really tighten up offensively and take care of the ball if we expect to advance in the tournament.”
Junior guard Jewell Loyd led Notre Dame in scoring with 16 points in 37 minutes. Senior guard Madison Cable added 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Loyd also tied sophomore guard Lindsay Allen, freshman forward Brianna Turner and sophomore forward Taya Reimer for the team lead in rebounds with five.
“I should’ve rested [Loyd] a little bit more; 37 minutes is too long,” McGraw said. “I was hoping to keep it to 30, but she was doing a lot of good things.”
North Carolina State narrowed the scoring margin near the end of the game, which McGraw said was due to some missed shooting opportunities by the Irish, though Notre Dame shot 54 percent overall.
“We missed a couple shots that would’ve put a little bit of a dagger in them,” McGraw said. “We missed a 3 that would’ve put us up 11 with 10 minutes to go, and when you get those double-digit leads, at that point in the game, I think that we really would’ve caught fire. But we missed some easy shots, and they got some opportunities for baskets off of some rebounds.”
With the league victory, Notre Dame moves into the ACC tournament with a solid grip on the top seed and first place. The Irish were in a similar situation last year, but McGraw said there are some key differences between last year’s squad and this one.
“Last year, we had a veteran team, but everybody [we played] was new so we had to learn a lot of new teams and just figure out the conference,” McGraw said. “This year we know a little bit more going in, but we have a younger team. This team has really improved. We got a lot better as the season went on. I think we really found it this year. We really did a lot of good things.”
The expectations for the season also differed from last season, McGraw said, with much of this year’s ambition resting on the shoulders of Loyd.
“Last year, it was just expected [for us to win the ACC],” McGraw said. “Even though we were picked No. 1 [this year] a lot of that was on Jewell, and she had a fabulous year. Credit to the bench and to the starters, but particularly to Jewell.”
The ACC tournament begins Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina. On Friday at 2 p.m., No. 1 seed Notre Dame will face the winner of a Thursday matchup between No. 8 seed Miami and No. 9 seed Virginia.