Feb. 17, 2014
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Georgia Tech couldn't keep Jewell Loyd from driving inside. Sometimes the Notre Dame sophomore got behind the defenders, and other times she drove past them for layups.
She finished with 27 points and nine rebounds to lead the second-ranked Fighting Irish to an 87-72 victory over Georgia Tech on Monday night in a game in which Notre Dame's upper classmen struggled after being honored on senior night.
"I think next year we're going to have senior night the first day of classes, Aug. 27," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I feel like every year it's the same thing with the emotion of the moment."
Loyd said she just stuck to the game plan.
"Just cutting to the middle, attacking when we could off the press, just trying to make open shots," she said.
Loyd scored seven straight at the end of the first half, capped by an alley-oop layup, then had back-to-back layups early in the second half to give the Irish a 16-point lead that was extended to 22.
Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph described Loyd as relentless.
"She gets it done, and you don't even know she's getting it done," she said. "The thing I like about her game is how hard she plays."
Joseph was pleased by her team's hustle, but disappointed by the Yellow Jackets' shooting touch.
"When we shoot 31 percent from the field it's tough for us to win games, especially against a team as good as Notre Dame," she said.
The Irish honored their seniors on Monday even though they still have home games left against Duke and North Carolina. The senior class of Natalie Achonwa, Kayla McBride, and Ariel Braker improved their four-year record at Notre Dame to 126-14.
The school record for wins by a senior class was set last season by Skylar Diggins and her classmates with a mark of 130-20.
Achonwa, who started the game 1-of-3 from the floor and 1-of-5 from the free-throw line, scored 18 points in the second half to finish with 21 points and 10 rebounds. She said the senior night activities, which included singing the Canadian national anthem in her honor, took the players out of their routine.
"It kind of got us out of our rhythm," she said. "It just took us a little bit to refocus."
McBride finished with 12 points despite struggling on 3-of-13 shooting, but finished with a career-high eight assists.
The Irish (25-0, 12-0 ACC) are five wins shy of their longest winning streak, set last season. The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Yellow Jackets (17-9, 7-6), who were led by a career-high 21 points by Aaliyah Whiteside.
"We didn't have an answer for her," said McGraw, who tied former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan (739-324) for 10th in career victories.
The Yellow Jackets also had 26 offensive rebounds, leading to 26 second-chance points. They scored 22 points off of 15 Notre Dame turnovers, but couldn't overcome their poor shooting.
Joseph said Notre Dame's physical play gave the Yellow Jackets trouble. "They really bodied us and pushed us off line," she said.
Georgia Tech's Tyaunna Marshall averaged 24.1 points in her eight previous games and scored at least 20 points in seven of them. She made 8 of 24 shots on Monday and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
"She's a great player. She is so hard to guard," McGraw said. "She struggled a little bit in the first half, but we just could not box her out."
Kaela Davis added 15 points for the Yellow Jackets, and Sydney Wallace had 11. Joseph, who is from Auburn, about 80 miles from South Bend, and played at Purdue, said her family made it to the game despite a heavy snowstorm.
"It means a lot to me to risk all that to support me and to support the team," she said.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame extends the best start in school history to 25-0, and the second-longest winning streak in program annals to 25 games (trailing only last year's 30-game run) ... Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw earned her 739th career win, tying former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan for 10th place on the NCAA Division I all-time victories list (McGraw is now 739-258, .741, in 32 seasons, including a 651-217, .750, mark in 27 seasons at Notre Dame) ... Notre Dame has won 24 consecutive home games, the third-longest active streak in the nation and third-longest in school history ... the Fighting Irish have won 48 consecutive regular season games, as well as 32 consecutive conference games (including its last 16 home league contests) ... Notre Dame has won 47 consecutive games against unranked opponents, the longest active run in the nation ... the Fighting Irish are 31-6 (.838) all-time on Senior Night, including wins in 24 of their last 26 outings since dropping McGraw's first Senior Night game at Notre Dame (69-68 vs. DePaul in 1988) ... Notre Dame's senior class improves to 126-14 (.900) in their four years under the Golden Dome, four wins shy of last year's seniors for the most wins by one class in program history ... the Fighting Irish move to 111-28 (.799) in the month of February since 1995-96 (61-6, .910 at home), including an active 16-game winning streak in February games ... Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time against Georgia Tech, which it was facing for the first time since Nov. 30, 1996 (a 76-69 Fighting Irish win in Atlanta) ... the Fighting Irish are 6-2 all-time against Georgia schools (3-1 at home), having won their last six in a row against the Peach State ... Notre Dame shot better than 50 percent from the field for the 17th time this season ... the Fighting Irish shot .633 from the floor in the second half, marking the 16th time in 50 halves this season (approximately one out of every three halves played) that Notre Dame has posted a field goal percentage of .600 or better in a half ... after shooting a frigid 3-of-15 (.200) from the field in the opening 8:33 on Monday, Notre Dame closed the game making 28 of its final 47 shots (a .596 clip) ... the Fighting Irish dished out at least 20 assists in a game for the 16th time this year (plus four other games with 19 assists) ... Notre Dame had four players score in double figures for the 19th time this year and rose to 94-5 (.949) in such games during the past five seasons, including wins in 64 of their last 65 outings ... the Fighting Irish were outrebounded for just the fourth time this season ... Georgia Tech's 48 rebounds were the most by a Notre Dame opponent since March 4, 2013, when Connecticut had 51 boards in a 96-87 triple-overtime Fighting Irish win at Purcell Pavilion ... Tech's 26 offensive rebounds were the most allowed by Notre Dame since Feb. 10, 2008, when Pittsburgh had 30 offensive boards in an 81-66 Fighting Irish win at Purcell Pavilion ... Tech's early six-point lead matched the largest deficit Notre Dame has faced in ACC play this season (it trailed Miami by six points twice on Jan. 23 at Purcell Pavilion, the last at 13-7 with 11:26 left in the first half before pulling away for a 79-52 win) ... sophomore guard Jewell Loyd registered her eighth 20-point game of the season (tying senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride for team-high honors) and the 10th of her career ... senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa picked up team-leading sixth double-double of the season and 26th of her career, tying Shari Matvey (1979-83) for sixth on the Notre Dame all-time double-doubles chart ... McBride handed out a career-high eight assists and collected her eighth "5-5-5" game of the season, as well as the 11th of her career (at least "5" in three of the five major statistical categories -- points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals) ... freshman guard Lindsay Allen grabbed a season- and career-high eight rebounds ... sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey turned in her 13th double-digit game of the season (16th career) and marked the 19th game this year the Notre Dame bench produced at least one double-figure scorer ... with Monday's attendance of 8,808 at Purcell Pavilion, the Fighting Irish drew their 46th consecutive home crowd of at least 8,000 fans.