March 4, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After earning its third consecutive outright regular season conference title (and first as member of the Atlantic Coast Conference), the No. 2 Notre Dame women's basketball team was recognized for its efforts with numerous individual honors on Tuesday, as the ACC office announced this year's all-conference and all-freshman teams.
Fighting Irish sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) earned spots on the 10-player All-ACC First Team, while senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic) was chosen for the five-player All-ACC Second Team. Notre Dame led all conference schools with three All-ACC selections this year.
The conference will unveil its specialty awards -- Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Player of the Year -- in separate press releases on Wednesday.
This week's ACC awards were selected through a vote of the ACC's Blue Ribbon Panel, which consists of designated media members who cover the conference's 15 institutions, the conference's 15 head coaches and media relations directors, and other selected national and regional women's basketball experts. The complete rundown of all-conference and all-freshman teams can be found on the ACC's official web site, theacc.com.
A second set of all-conference honors, as voted on by the ACC head coaches at the end of the regular season, will be released next week.
This marks the fifth consecutive season and sixth time in the past seven years Notre Dame has had three players earn all-conference recognition. For McBride, it is her second first-team selection in as many seasons (following first-team all-BIG EAST accolades last year), while Achonwa pairs this season's second-team citation with last year's first-team honor from the BIG EAST. Loyd was an honorable mention all-BIG EAST pick last year before elevating to first-team all-ACC honors this season.
McBride is the 13th Fighting Irish player in program history to earn two first-team all-conference awards, while she, Achonwa and Loyd now give Notre Dame 20 players who have garnered multiple all-league citations during their careers, stretching back to the program's previous affiliations with the BIG EAST (1995-2013), Midwestern Collegiate (1988-95) and North Star (1983-88) conferences.
With this season's first-team selections for Loyd and McBride, it also represents the 11th consecutive year, and 17th time in the past 19 seasons that the Fighting Irish have had at least one player garner first-team all-conference status. In fact, in head coach Muffet McGraw's 27 seasons as head coach at Notre Dame, covering four conference affiliations (ACC, BIG EAST, Midwestern Collegiate and North Star), the Fighting Irish have had at least one first-team all-conference selection an astounding 24 times (all but 1993, 1998 and 2003).
A midseason candidate for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) State Farm Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award (all going to the national player of the year), Loyd has started 28 games this season (she missed one due to injury), averaging career highs of 18.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game with four double-doubles, plus a team high-tying 10 20-point games and two 30-point outings (the first time a Notre Dame player has had multiple 30-point games in the same seasons since Ruth Riley in 1999-2000).
The reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year, Loyd ranks among the top 20 in the ACC in five statistical categories --scoring (7th), free throw percentage (6th - .820), field goal percentage (13th - .520), steals (14th) and rebounding (20th). In conference play, she finished fifth in the ACC in scoring (19.7 ppg.), as well as second in three-point percentage (.474), fifth in free throw percentage (.864), sixth in field goal percentage (.536) and ninth in steals (1.8 spg.).
Loyd, who has scored in double figures in 34 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in program history, also was named the espnW National Player of the Week and the ACC Player of the Week on Feb. 24 after averaging 25.7 points and 7.7 rebounds with a .509 field goal percentage in wins over Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and No. 7 Duke, the latter victory securing Notre Dame's first ACC regular season title.
A consensus All-America choice last year, McBride is one of the country's top all-around players and like Loyd, she is a candidate for all major national player of the year awards this season. A member of the 2014-16 USA Basketball National Team Player Pool, McBride has started all 29 games for Notre Dame this season, registering career highs of 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game with a 1.77 assist/turnover ratio, while tying Loyd for team-high honors with 10 20-point games.
McBride is a fixture among the ACC statistical leaders, ranking in the top 15 in five categories -- scoring (11th), free throw percentage (2nd - .874; also 22nd in the nation), assist/turnover ratio (7th), assists (8th) and three-point percentage (10th - .372). Her numbers were even sharper in conference games, where she ranked seventh in scoring (19.3 ppg.), first in free throw percentage (.919), third in assist/turnover ratio (2.03) and eighth in assists (4.1 apg.).
On Feb. 3, McBride swept all the major national player of the week awards (espnW, USBWA and NCAA.com) and was named ACC Player of the Week after averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists with a .600 field goal percentage in wins over No. 8/6 Maryland, Virginia Tech and No. 3 Duke.
Those performances are part of McBride's remarkable success in nine games against Top 25 opponents this year, against which she has averaged 20.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game with a .479 field goal percentage. In five games against top-10 teams, she's even better, averaging 21.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game with a .513 field goal percentage.
Achonwa also is a midseason candidate for the Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award, but got a late start to her season, missing the first three games while recovering from preseason knee surgery. However, she hasn't skipped a beat since her return, starting all 26 games for Notre Dame, while posting career highs in scoring (14.7 ppg.), assists (2.9 apg.), blocked shots (1.2 bpg.) and field goal percentage (.610), plus a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game. She also has a team-best six double-doubles this year, plus a career high-tying six 20-point outings to her credit.
An honorable mention All-America post player last year, Achonwa ranks among the ACC leaders in four categories -- scoring (17th), field goal percentage (3rd; also fourth in the nation), rebounding (9th) and blocked shots (10th). In conference play, Achonwa finished 14th in the ACC in scoring (15.7 ppg.), as well as second in field goal percentage (.634), seventh in blocked shots (1.3 bpg.), 10th in rebounding (7.4 rpg.) and 14th in assists (3.1 apg.).
Following the first undefeated regular season in program history, Notre Dame (29-0, 16-0 ACC) is the top seed for the 2014 ACC Championship and has earned a double-bye into the quarterfinal round, where it will play its inaugural ACC postseason game at 2 p.m. (ET) Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., against the winner of the second-round game between eighth-seeded Miami and No. 9 seed Florida State.
Notre Dame's ACC quarterfinal contest will be televised live to a national cable audience on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks (check local listings or theacc.com for presenting affiliates, which do not include any South Bend-area TV outlets at this time), as well as worldwide on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app. The Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast also can be heard live in the South Bend area on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and free of charge worldwide on the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women's basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director