March 5, 2014
Atlantic Coast Conference Championship -- Quarterfinal
#2/2 [#1 seed] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (29-0 / 16-0 ACC) vs. [#8 seed] Miami Hurricanes (16-13 / 8-8 ACC) or [#9 seed] Florida State Seminoles (19-10 / 7-9 ACC)
DATE: March 7, 2014
No. 2 Fighting Irish Set For Inaugural ACC Tournament Appearance
Notre Dame (29-0, 16-0) defeated its third consecutive-15 opponent on Sunday with an 84-60 win at No. 13/17 N.C. State. The Fighting Irish shot nearly 70 percent from the floor during the final 33 minutes to secure the win.
The Notre Dame-Miami Series
The Last Time Notre Dame And Miami Met
Three days after coming back from 12 points down to beat Tennessee going away, the Fighting Irish started 1 for 13 from the field against Miami and fell behind by six before coming back to beat the Hurricanes 79-52 on Jan. 23 at Purcell Pavilion.
The veterans were the ones struggling early as Natalie Achonwa was 1 for 5 from the floor with three turnovers in the first five minutes and Kayla McBride missed her first seven shots. Achonwa finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, Lindsay Allen added a season-high 16 points and McBride had 15 as the Fighting Irish got their 21st straight home win.
After the slow start, Notre Dame made 10 of its final 19 shots of the first half to open a 35-26 lead the break, then began the second half with a 10-0 run to take control.
Jassany Williams and Adrienne Motley led Miami with 10 points apiece as the Hurricanes shot a season-low 30.6 percent.
Other Notre Dame-Miami Series Tidbits
The Notre Dame-Florida State Series
Kayla McBride chipped in 14 points for Notre Dame, while Cheetah Delgado scored a career-high 18 points and Natasha Howard finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for Florida State.
A 24-5 run in the second half allowed Notre Dame to run away after the Seminoles cut it to 34-33 shortly after halftime.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 27-13 lead thanks to a 15-2 run sparked by Achonwa, who scored 15 first-half points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field. Florida State adjusted and was able to work the ball to Howard as the Seminoles closed the half with a 16-5 run. Howard scored eight consecutive points during the spurt.
The Seminoles trailed 32-29 at halftime after Delgado hit a runner with six seconds remaining. A jumper by Delgado brought Florida State within one point early in the second half, but the Fighting Irish ran away with a heavy dose of Loyd, who scored 14 of her 18 after the break. The 24-5 run that put the Seminoles away was highlighted by an alley-oop from Michaela Mabrey to Loyd.
Other Notre Dame-Florida State Series Tidbits
Sunshine State Success
Notre Dame has won its last six games away from home (road/neutral combined) against teams from the state of Florida, with USF the most recent Sunshine State school to defeat the Fighting Irish (an 87-78 overtime win in Tampa in 2007).
What's more, Notre Dame had several notable program achievements involving ranked teams earlier this season:
Irish In The ACC Championship
In 18 BIG EAST Championship appearances, the Fighting Irish compiled a 24-17 (.585) record. Notre Dame also won the 2013 BIG EAST title (61-59 at Connecticut on a layup by Natalie Achonwa with 1.8 seconds left) in the last of their seven title game appearances (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2011, 2012, 2013). The Fighting Irish also reached the BIG EAST semifinals in 11 of their 18 years.
Prior to joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame was a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League). During its seven-year affiliation with that conference, the Fighting Irish won the MCC Tournament five times, all in six-year span (1989-92, 1994).
Other ACC Championship Tidbits
Getting The Jump
What's more, the Fighting Irish have tied the third-longest winning streak by any team in the modern era (since 1950) of Notre Dame athletics. In fact, the women's basketball program holds three of the seven longest winning streaks in Fighting Irish athletics history during the past six decades.
Notre Dame also has strung together 14 double-digit winning streaks in the program's 37-year history, with 12 of those coming during the tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-88 to present).
Dating back to the start of last season, the Fighting Irish are 64-2 (.970) and have won 52 consecutive regular season games. In that span, their lone losses have come against a pair of third-ranked teams -- Baylor (73-61 on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion) and Connecticut (83-65 on April 7, 2013, in the NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinals at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La.).
In addition, Notre Dame currently shares the nation's longest winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll), having earned 48 consecutive victories since a last-second 65-63 home loss to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012 (research for this note provided by STATS via the AP).
Notre Dame also has won three consecutive outright conference regular season championships for the first time in its 37-year history, and won three in a row of any kind for just the second time. In their first three seasons (1988-89 through 1990-91) in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League), the Fighting Irish won the regular season title each time, although they shared the MCC crown in their inaugural season in that league with Loyola-Chicago.
Some other notables about Notre Dame's first ACC title:
Different Address, Same Result
Irish Trio Earns All-ACC Honors
This is 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 also 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 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).
McGraw Named ACC Coach Of The Year
This marks the second consecutive season, and sixth time in McGraw's career she has been named a conference coach of the year, covering five different leagues. She previously was honored in 1983 (East Coast Conference, while coaching at Lehigh University), as well as five times in her 27-year career at Notre Dame -- 1988 (North Star Conference), 1991 (Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League), 2001 and 2013 (BIG EAST), and 2014 (ACC).
McGraw also becomes the second coach in program history to earn conference coach of the year honors in consecutive seasons. Mary DiStanislao pulled off that feat in 1985 and 1986 when the Fighting Irish were members of the North Star Conference.
Notre Dame's current 26-game road winning streak also is the longest active run in the nation, more than doubling the next-closest pursuers (12 by Connecticut and Chattanooga, as of Monday), as well as tying the fourth-longest road winning streak in NCAA Division I history.
The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 24 consecutive conference road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The Comforts Of Home
What's more, Notre Dame has won its last 18 conference home games since a 65-63 loss to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012, when both the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
That's Some Sharp Shooting
In addition, Notre Dame had a remarkable three-game stretch from Dec. 7-22 when it connected at better than a 55-percent clip in each contest. It was the first time the Fighting Irish had three consecutive 55-percent outings since Nov. 20-29, 1997, when they did so in victories over North Carolina State (.565), Bowling Green (.558) and Ohio University (.567).
Notre Dame's sharpshooting brigade has been led by senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa, who is third in the ACC (fourth in the nation) with a .610 field goal percentage, along with a .634 mark in conference play (second in the ACC).
Achonwa has been very efficient from the field in her last 11 games, connecting at a .674 clip (64-of-95), including 10-of-12 on Feb. 6 at Florida State, en route to a game-high 24 points.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (.524) has moved into 13th in the ACC in field goal percentage (sixth in conference play at .536), thanks in part to her own recent hot streak that has seen Loyd shoot .557 (102-of-183) during her last 12 outings, notably going 9-of-11 for a game-high 23 points in the Feb. 9 win over Syracuse.
Eight other Notre Dame players are shooting better than 50 percent from the field this season, led by freshman forward Kristina Nelson (.578), junior forward Markisha Wright (.559) and junior guard Whitney Holloway (.545), but none has made the minimum number of shots (three per game) to qualify for ACC ranking.
Life In The 60s
In fact, Notre Dame has posted a field goal percentage of .600 or better in 18 of its 58 halves, equating to a 60-percent performance approximately one out of every three periods of basketball it plays, with the distribution almost even (eight times in the first half, 10 times in the second half).
The Fighting Irish also have shot better than 60 percent in both halves of a game twice this season (UNC Wilmington and Pittsburgh), along with a season-high single-half percentage of .710 in the second period against Central Michigan, a rate that just missed the top 10 on the school's all-time chart.
A pair of marks that did make it into one of the program's top 10 lists were Notre Dame's first-half shooting percentages at Michigan (.688) and Maryland (.667), which now rank as the sixth- and eighth-best figures during the opening 20 minutes in school history.
Dialing Long Distance
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey leads the way for the Fighting Irish with a .401 three-point percentage that ranks fifth in the ACC, while senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (.372) stands 10th in the conference.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (.403) would rank fourth on the ACC overall chart, but she is three made three-pointers shy of meeting the minimum qualification standard (1.0 3FG/game).
During ACC play, Loyd (.474) finished second in the conference, while Mabrey not far behind her in the sixth position (.423).
In addition, Mabrey is 10th in the ACC with 2.0 three-pointers per game (tied for 10th in ACC play at 2.1 per game), a mark she bolstered on Feb. 9 against Syracuse with a career-high (and Purcell Pavilion record-tying) six triples. It's one of seven times this season Mabrey has canned at least three treys in a game, and the third time this year a Notre Dame player has made five three-pointers in a contest (Mabrey went 5-for-6 against Boston College on Jan. 9, while junior guard Madison Cable posted a 5-for-6 effort against UCLA on Dec. 7).
In fact, Cable (.442) and freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.455) would rank among the top five in the ACC as well, but like Loyd, they don't quite meet the minimum standard for the overall ACC rankings despite their efficiency from distance.
As a team, the Fighting Irish have connected on 10 three-pointers in a game three times this season (UCLA, Tennessee and Syracuse), their highest production outside the arc in nearly four years, dating back to a similar 10-triple performance on Jan. 30, 2010, at Syracuse.
What's more, Notre Dame's .750 three-point mark (9-of-12) on Jan. 16 at Pittsburgh was its best performance from long range (with a minimum of five attempts) in more than five years, stretching back to Nov. 23, 2008, against Boston College at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass., when the Fighting Irish made 7-of-8 three-pointers (.875) in a 102-54 win.
A Helping Hand
Notre Dame also has dished out at least 20 helpers in 17 games thus far, plus 19 assists in six other outings (along with a season-high 31 dimes against UCLA on Dec. 7), with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 63.9 percent of their made field goals this year (613 of 959).
Notre Dame also ranks sixth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.42), led by two players who rank among the top 10 in the ACC in that category -- freshman guard Lindsay Allen (3rd - 2.02) and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (7th - 1.77), who both are on pace to finish with two of the top six single-season assist/turnover ratios in school history.
What's more, McBride (113 assists) and Allen (111) are the fourth set of Notre Dame teammates in the past decade to register 100 assists in the same season, and the first since 2010-11, when Skylar Diggins (186) and Brittany Mallory (101) pulled off the feat.
Visiting Century City
The Fighting Irish have piled up 10 100-point games in the past three seasons (and eight other games of 95-99 points), a remarkable offensive explosion considering Notre Dame had 13 triple-digit games in the first 34 years of the program's existence (and just four in the 12 seasons prior to its current run).
In addition, Notre Dame's 100-75 win over No. 14/11 North Carolina on Feb. 27 was just the second time in program history (and first in more than 15 years) the Fighting Irish reached the century mark against a ranked opponent, following a 101-93 win over No. 25/23 Illinois on Nov. 24, 1998, at Purcell Pavilion.
Spreading The Wealth
Nearly In A Class By Themselves
Last year, led by its two-player senior class of Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, Notre Dame posted the best four-year record (130-20, .867) in school history, topping the win total (117) compiled by the previous year's seniors (Brittany Mallory, Fraderica Miller, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters).
Prior to the 2011-12 season, the highest four-year win total by a senior class was 109, set by the Class of 2001 that included (among others) consensus national player of the year and 13-year WNBA veteran Ruth Riley and current Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey.
Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Scorers
McBride currently is seventh in program history with 1,719 career points, passing both Trena Keys (1,589 from 1982-86) and Karen Robinson (1,590 from 1987-91) with her 18 points against Syracuse on Feb. 9. McBride also is one of just seven players ever to score 1,600 points under the Golden Dome.
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 15th in Notre Dame history with 1,437 points, having passed both Lindsay Schrader (1,429 from 2005-10) and current Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey (1,430 from 1996-2001) with No. 13/17 19 points at North Carolina State on March 2. Achonwa could move up another spot shortly, as she is just two points behind Sheila McMillen (1,439 from 1995-99) for 14th place in Notre Dame history.
Another current Fighting Irish player could join the program's 1,000-Point Club in the coming weeks. Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd currently has 965 points in 64 career games, putting her on pace to become one of the fastest players to reach 1,000 points at Notre Dame, and just the third to do so before the end of her sophomore season (the others being Beth Morgan in 1994-95 and Skylar Diggins in 2010-11).
"She's money. Kayla McBride is money. That's cash. Every time she shoots that thing, it's going in."
McBride's career-high 31 points against the Blue Devils (followed by a 28-point effort four nights later against No. 14/11 North Carolina) are just the latest in what has been a series of peak performances for the Erie, Pa., native in her final season at Notre Dame. As a returning All-American and prime candidate for both ACC and National Player of the Year honors as well as every major All-American and specialty player award in the country, McBride's play already was receiving notice on numerous levels, but she's taken that effort up more than a notch this season.
McBride is averaging career highs in scoring (17.7 ppg.), rebounding (5.6 rpg.), assists (3.9 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (1.77), ranking among the top 15 in the ACC in scoring (11th), free throw percentage (2nd - .874; also 22nd in nation), assist/turnover ratio (7th), assists (8th) and three-point percentage (10th - .372).
In addition, McBride is tied for the team lead with 10 20-point games, has a double-double to her credit (23 points/11 rebounds at No. 3 Duke on Feb. 2) and nine "5-5-5" games (at least "5" in three of the five statistical categories - points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals).
Yet, what puts McBride a cut above virtually every other player in the land in her uncanny ability to raise her game on the biggest stages. In Notre Dame's nine games against Top 25 opponents this season, she is averaging 20.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game with a .479 field goal percentage (68-of-142). She's even better against top-10 teams, averaging 21.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game with a .513 field goal percentage (41-of-80) in those five outings.
In fact, dating back to last season, McBride is averaging 18.7 points per game in her last 23 games against ranked opponents, including nine 20-point games.
Coming Up Aces
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .558 career field goal percentage (sixth in program annals) and 138 games played (fourth all-time at Notre Dame; tied for third among active NCAA players).
The Lincolnwood, Ill., product currently ranks seventh in the ACC in scoring (18.4 ppg.), sixth in free throw percentage (.820), 13th in field goal percentage (.524) and 14th in steals (1.6 spg.), while sporting career-high marks in scoring, rebounding (6.3 rpg.), assists (2.5 apg.), steals and field goal percentage. She also has a team high-tying 10 20-point games thus far (including a career-high 31 points at No. 8/6 Maryland on Jan. 27) after scoring 20 points twice during her rookie campaign.
What's more, Loyd has two 30-point games to her credit this season, having also dropped in an even 30 against Central Michigan on Dec. 22 at Purcell Pavilion. Loyd is the first Fighting Irish player to have two 30-point games in the same season since 1999-2000, when Ruth Riley did so against Liberty (32) and Miami (36).
Perhaps giving a preview of things to come, Loyd stormed out of the gates this season, piling up 63 points in Notre Dame's first three games, wins over UNC Wilmington (19 points), No. 19/18 Michigan State (22 points) and Valparaiso (22 points).
Loyd's opening-week point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the first three contests of a season since 1998-99, when Danielle Green had 66 combined points in wins against No. 6 UCLA at home (23 points), at Butler (23) and No. 6/4 Duke at home (20).
The Model Of Consistency
Loyd's 34-game double-digit scoring streak is the second-longest in school history, surpassing Natalie Novosel's 27-game run from March 8, 2011-Jan. 21, 2012. In fact, Loyd has scored in double figures in 52 of her 64 career games (and 10 of those 12 single-digit games saw her within one basket of double figures).
Katryna Gaither has staked an ironclad claim to the school record with a remarkable 76-game double-figure scoring streak from 1994-97.
Jewell Of Denial
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd, who in her spare time leads the Fighting Irish in scoring this season, was given the assignment of marking Penn State's Maggie Lucas (Dec. 4) and Duke's Tricia Liston (Feb. 23) and embraced both challenges with aplomb.
In Notre Dame's 77-67 win at No. 10/11 Penn State, Loyd led a Fighting Irish defense that held Lucas (averaging 22.2 ppg. at tipoff) to just seven points (1-8 FG, 4-4 FT), and held the sharpshooting All-American and Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year scoreless until 5:18 remained in the game, when she converted a pair of 1+1 free throws in the bonus situation.
In the second of two meetings with No. 7 Duke (an 81-70 Fighting Irish win), Loyd was again equal to the task of guarding the opponent's top scorer. This time, she shadowed Liston across virtually every inch of the Purcell Pavilion court, helping to hold the Blue Devil guard (who came in averaging 18.4 ppg., and scored 23 in the teams' first matchup three weeks earlier) to just nine points (3-8 FG), with five of those points coming in the final 90 seconds after the outcome was well in hand.
It was the first time a Fighting Irish rookie point guard started the season opener since Nov. 26, 1994, when Mollie Peirick cracked the lineup and played 38 minutes (two points, five rebounds, three assists) in a 65-60 overtime loss at No. 25 Seton Hall.
One of two freshmen among 22 candidates for the 2014 Nancy Lieberman Award (given to the nation's top point guard), Allen has not disappointed in her debut campaign, averaging 6.9 points and 3.8 assists per game (the latter ranking ninth in the ACC). She also is third in the ACC with a 2.02 assist/turnover ratio, and is third on the team with 1.31 steals per game.
Allen (111 assists) also is only the fifth Notre Dame freshman to dish out 100 assists in her rookie season, and just the second in the past 20 years (Skylar Diggins had 112 assists in 2009-10). Mary Gavin holds the Fighting Irish freshman assist record with 116 in 1984-85.
What's more, Allen's 3.83 apg. average is the best for a Notre Dame freshman since 1994-95 (Peirick - 3.93 apg.) and makes Allen a candidate to be just the second Notre Dame freshman ever to average 4.0 apg. as a rookie (Gavin logged 4.5 apg. in that 1984-85 season).
Leading a winning lineup is not an unfamiliar feeling for Allen, who is a combined 56-1 in her last 57 games as a starting point guard. Last year as a senior at St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C., she guided her squad to a 27-1 record and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) title -- the highest level of play in the District of Columbia, which does not have a state tournament.
The Second Platoon
The Fighting Irish second unit has outscored its opposite number in 20 games this season, including a season-high 55 points on Jan. 9 against Boston College, outscoring the entire BC roster by two points (not to mention the Notre Dame starters by 15).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey (9.0 ppg.), freshman forward Taya Reimer (8.0 ppg.) and junior guard Madison Cable (5.3 ppg.) head up the strong Fighting Irish bench contingent, which has seen at least one reserve score in double figures in 20 games this season (total of 23 double-figure outings).
Call Her Mabrey
Mabrey also has proven to be a dynamic three-point threat for Notre Dame, ranking fifth in the ACC with a .401 three-point percentage (sixth in the league with a .423 mark in ACC play) and 10th in the conference with 2.0 three-pointers made per game (tied for 10th at 2.1 per game in league play), thanks in part to making at least three triples in seven games this year, including a career-high 6-of-14 vs. Syracuse on Feb. 9.
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures 13 times this year (including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against UNC Wilmington) after doing so three times in 30 games last season.
Next Game: ACC Semifinals
Both of Saturday's ACC semifinal games will be televised live on ESPNU, as well as streamed online by ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director