March 5, 2014
2013-14 ND Women's Basketball: Game 30
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
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Coliseum (23,500)
SERIES: ND leads UM 15-3 / ND leads FSU 1-0
TV: ACC-RSN/ESPN3 (live) (Tom Werme, p-b-p / Stephanie Ready, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: theacc.com
StorylinesNotre Dame has earned the No. 1 seed in its conference tournament for the third consecutive year, and the eighth time in head coach Muffet McGraw's tenure (since 1987-88).
Dating back to 2001, 18 of the past 25 Fighting Irish games in conference tournaments have been decided by 11 points or fewer.
No. 2 Fighting Irish Set For Inaugural ACC Tournament Appearance
Following the first undefeated regular season in program history, No. 2 Notre Dame begins its inaugural appearance at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship at 2 p.m. (ET) Friday, when the top-seeded Fighting Irish take on either No. 8 seed Miami or ninth-seeded Florida State in a quarterfinal game at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum. The game will be televised live on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks and ESPN3/WatchESPN (check local listings or theacc.com for affiliates), while the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast can be heard free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
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.
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa had a game-high 19 points, while sophomore guard Jewell Loyd added 18 points.
RankingsNotre Dame is No. 2 in this week's Associated Press poll and is No. 2 in this week's WBCA/USA Today poll.
Miami and Florida State are not ranked.
Quick HittersNotre Dame has clinched the outright ACC regular season title in its first season in the conference. It's the first time the Fighting Irish have won three consecutive outright regular season conference titles (following BIG EAST crowns in 2011-12 and 2012-13), and just the second time they have won three consecutive regular season conference titles in the program's 37-year history (they shared the 1988-89 Midwestern Collegiate/Horizon League championship before claiming the top spot outright the following two seasons).
Notre Dame is the ninth ACC school to go undefeated in conference play and first since North Carolina in 2007-08, as well as the first to go 16-0 in ACC play since Duke in 2002-03.
Notre Dame is the fourth ACC school to win the conference regular season title by at least four games, and the first since Duke in 2001-02.
Notre Dame is the first school to win the ACC regular season women's basketball title in its first year in the conference since the ACC began sponsoring the sport in 1977-78.
Notre Dame and Middle Tennessee (Conference USA) are the first NCAA Division I programs to win consecutive conference titles in different leagues since 2000-01, when both TCU and Louisiana Tech did so.
At 29-0, Notre Dame is off to the best start to a season in program history, surpassing the 23-0 debut by the 2000-01 club.
The current Fighting Irish 29-game winning streak is the second-longest in program history beyond only last year's 30-game run. It's also tied for the third-longest winning streak by any Notre Dame team (regardless of sport) since 1950.
Notre Dame has won 26 consecutive home games, dating back to Dec. 5, 2012 (a 73-61 loss to No. 3 Baylor). The 26-game home winning streak is the second-longest in school history and tied for the second-longest active run in NCAA Division I.
The Fighting Irish have won a school-record 26 consecutive road games (and 42 of their last 47), tying the fourth-longest streak in NCAA Division I history and dating back to a 94-81 loss at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT title game.
Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Notre Dame is 36-5 (.878) against ranked opponents (14-2 on the road).
Notre Dame stands at No. 2 in the AP and WBCA/USA Today polls, the third consecutive season that the Fighting Irish have earned the second position in both surveys.
Notre Dame leads the nation in field goal percentage (.514), part of seven NCAA statistical categories that the Fighting Irish rank among the top 10 (not including won-loss percentage, for which they are one of two remaining teams in the nation without a loss).
Notre Dame has appeared in the AP poll for 134 consecutive weeks (including the past 64 weeks in the AP Top 10), extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll, and ranking sixth in the nation among active AP poll appearances. What's more, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad during her career, with the vast majority of that time (84 of 95 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
Senior forwards Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker, and senior guard Kayla McBride have helped Notre Dame to a 130-14 (.903) record in their careers, matching last year's senior class of Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, who also helped Notre Dame to 130 wins from 2009-13.
Of the 14 losses suffered by the current Fighting Irish senior class, eight were decided by single digits (and three others by 10-13 points).
Notre Dame aims to continue its remarkable success at Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish owning a 399-90 (.816) all-time record in 37 seasons at the facility, including a 76-5 (.938) record since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season.
Notre Dame ranks fourth in this week's NCAA attendance rankings (8,683 fans per game), and is one of only two schools in the country (along with Gonzaga) to fill its arena to better than 90 percent capacity, something the Fighting Irish have done each season since 2009-10.
With a 106-72 victory over Central Michigan on Dec. 22, the Fighting Irish became the 27th NCAA Division I women's basketball program to record 800 all-time wins.
With 655 victories in her 27 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men's/women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
With 743 career wins, McGraw has moved into 10th place on the NCAA Division I career list. She is one of two ACC coaches in the top 10 along with current North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell (second with 930).
The Notre Dame-Miami Series
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Miami, 15-3, and has won the past three matchups with the Hurricanes. Should they meet in Friday's quarterfinal, it would be the second time they have tangled in the postseason (the Fighting Irish downed UM, 67-52 in the 2000 BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals in Storrs, Conn.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Miami Met
Second-ranked Notre Dame is making a habit of overcoming slow starts.
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 TidbitsOf the 18 games in the series, six have been decided by single-digit margins (Notre Dame has won four of those six close affairs).
Miami has scored more than 70 points against Notre Dame four times in their 18-game series (once in the past 10 outings). Conversely, the Fighting Irish have topped the 70-point mark 12 times in their history with the Hurricanes, all in the past 16 games.
Notre Dame has had eight Florida natives suit up in the program's 37-year history, with its most recent Sunshine State product being 2010 graduate Alena Christiansen (Fort Lauderdale/Cardinal Gibbons HS).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey played for Miami head coach Katie Meier on the 2012 USA Basketball Under-18 National Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Mabrey appeared in all five games (starting four times) for Team USA at the tournament, averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game with a .500 three-point percentage and .489 overall field goal percentage. She also scored in double figures four times (incuding 14 points against Brazil in the gold medal game), and led all players in the eight-team tournament in assists, assist/turnover ratio (2.67) and three-pointers per game (3.2).
Notre Dame assistant athletic trainer Anne Marquez also served on Meier's staff with the 2012 USA Basketball U18 National Team.
Meier also coached a future Notre Dame player (2014-15 incoming freshman forward Brianna Turner) on last summer's USA Basketball U19 National Team that won the FIBA U19 World Championships in Lithuania. As the second-youngest player on the American roster, Turner played in all nine games for Team USA at the tournament, averaging 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game with a .500 field goal percentage.
The Notre Dame-Florida State Series
Notre Dame won its only previous meeting with Florida State, 81-60, earlier this season. FSU was the last of five first-time opponents on the 2013-14 Fighting Irish regular season schedule.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Florida State Met
Natalie Achonwa scored 24 points and Jewell Loyd added 18 to lead No. 2 Notre Dame to an 81-60 victory at Florida State on Feb. 6.
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 TidbitsNotre Dame freshman guard Lindsay Allen and freshman forward Taya Reimer were teammates with Florida State freshman center Kai James on the East Team at the 2013 McDonald's High School All-America Game, played at Chicago's United Center (the West defeated the East, 92-64).
Allen, Reimer and James also were teammates on the 2012 USA Basketball Under-17 National Team that went a perfect 8-0 and won the gold medal at the FIBA U17 World Championships in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Also on that United States roster was future Notre Dame forward Brianna Turner, who signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University last fall and will suit up for the Fighting Irish beginning next season.
Notre Dame senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride and Florida State senior forward Natasha Howard were teammates on the East Team at the 2010 McDonald's High School All-America Game, played at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio (the West defeated the East, 84-75).
Notre Dame associate head coach Carol Owens and Florida State head coach Sue Semrau have a friendship that dates back more than two decades to their days at Northern Illinois, when Owens was completing her career at NIU in 1990 (and subsequently returning to campus to train when she was playing professionally overseas) and Semrau was arriving on the DeKalb, Ill., campus as an assistant coach (1991-94). The pair also have previously served together on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Board of Directors, with Semrau currently the WBCA President.
Semrau was an assistant coach on the 2010 USA Basketball Under-18 National Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Colorado Springs. McBride was a starter on that squad, averaging 8.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Florida State director of athletics Stan Wilcox is a 1981 Notre Dame graduate and was a four-year monogram recipient on the Fighting Irish men's basketball team, playing for legendary coach Digger Phelps and helping Notre Dame to its first NCAA Final Four appearance in 1978. Wilcox later returned to his alma mater as deputy athletics director from 2005-08.
Two of the more memorable moments in Notre Dame athletics history occurred against Florida State. On Nov. 13, 1993, the No. 2 Fighting Irish football team defeated the No. 1 Seminoles, 31-24 at Notre Dame Stadium in what was termed a "Game of the Century." Then on June 10, 2002, the 11th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team defeated No. 1 FSU, 3-1 in the decisive third game of the NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional, earning the Fighting Irish their first College World Series berth in 45 years.
Sunshine State Success
Notre Dame is 30-5 (.857) all-time against Florida schools, including an 18-2 (.900) record away from home (road/neutral combined) against Sunshine State teams. The Fighting Irish also have won their last 11 games against Florida schools, including wins over Miami (79-52) and Florida State (81-60) earlier this season.
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).
Notre Dame is 9-0 against ranked opponents (5-0 against top-10 teams) and has won eight of those nine games by double figures, the lone exception being an 87-83 victory at No. 8/6 Maryland on Jan. 27 (a game in which the Fighting Irish led by 22 points late in the first half).
What's more, Notre Dame had several notable program achievements involving ranked teams earlier this season:With its 88-67 win at third-ranked Duke on Feb. 2 on ESPN's Sunday women's basketball package, Notre Dame earned its third road win over a top-10 opponent this season, something the Fighting Irish had never done in a single regular season campaign during the program's 37-year history (Notre Dame has numerous postseason road wins over top-10 foes).
What made the Duke win even more remarkable is that it was the third consecutive road game against a top-10 opponent for the Fighting Irish, following ESPN2 Big Monday visits to No. 11/10 Tennessee (86-70 win) and No. 8/6 Maryland (87-83 win) on Jan. 20 and 27, respectively.
In its final three games of the regular season, Notre Dame defeated three consecutive top-15 opponents by a combined 60 points, dispatching No. 7 Duke (81-70) and No. 14/11 North Carolina (100-75) at home before winning at No. 13/17 North Carolina State (84-60). It was the first time in program history the Fighting Irish defeated three consecutive ranked teams (according to the AP poll) in the regular season, let alone three that appeared in the top 15 of the media balloting.
Irish In The ACC Championship
Notre Dame opens play in its first ACC Championship this week, looking to build upon its success in prior conference tournaments, a tradition that has included six postseason crowns.
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 TidbitsNotre Dame is the No. 1 seed in its conference tournament for the third consecutive year, and eighth time in the past 26 years (also 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1995 in the MCC; 2001, 2012 and 2013 in the BIG EAST). In seven previous tournaments as a top seed, Notre Dame has won four titles (1990, 1991 and 1994 MCC; 2013 BIG EAST) and reached the championship game on two other occasions (2001 and 2012 BIG EAST).
Dating back to the start of its BIG EAST tenure in 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 18-7 (.720) in conference tournaments when playing as the higher seed.
Beginning with the classic 2001 BIG EAST title game against Connecticut (won by the Huskies on Sue Bird's fadeaway jumper at the buzzer), 18 of the past 25 Fighting Irish games in the tournament have been decided by 11 points or fewer, including 11 by single digits (Notre Dame is 8-10 in those single-digit contests, including two wins in last year's BIG EAST Championship).
Since 1995-96, more than half (23) of Notre Dame's 40 conference tournament games have featured margins of 11 points or fewer, with the Fighting Irish going 11-12 (.478) in those contests.
Getting The Jump
At 29-0, Notre Dame is off to the best start in the program's 37-year history. This year's start surpasses the debut of the 2000-01 Fighting Irish squad, which reeled off a (then) school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program's first national championship.
Notre Dame's current 29-game winning streak is the second-longest success string in program history, and it's the third consecutive season the Fighting Irish have posted a winning streak of 20 games or longer, including last year's school-record 30-game run.
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).
With its 81-70 victory over No. 7 Duke on Feb. 23 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame secured its third consecutive outright conference regular season title, and first as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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:The Fighting Irish are the first program to earn the ACC title in their first year in the conference since the ACC began sponsoring the sport in 1977-78.
Notre Dame is the ninth ACC school to go undefeated in conference play and first since North Carolina in 2007-08, as well as the first to go 16-0 in an ACC regular season slate since Duke in 2002-03.
Notre Dame is the fourth ACC school to win the conference regular season title by at least four games, and the first since Duke won by five in 2001-02. Virginia is the only other school to pull off this feat, doing so in 1990-91 (five games) and 1994-95 (four).
Notre Dame averaged 86.5 points per game in ACC games, the sixth-highest scoring average by a conference team in league play in ACC history, and highest since 1990-91, when both Virginia (94.5 ppg.) and North Carolina State (89.1 ppg.) topped that mark.
Notre Dame outscored its 16 ACC opponents by 23.1 points per game, the sixth-largest scoring margin in conference history and largest in ACC play since 2006-07, when both North Carolina (+28.7 ppg.) and Duke (+24.1 ppg.) had greater margins.
Different Address, Same Result
According to STATS, Notre Dame is the first NCAA Division I school to win consecutive regular season championships in different conferences since 2000-01, when TCU (WAC to Conference USA) and Louisiana Tech (Sun Belt to WAC) pulled off the feat. Middle Tennessee followed Notre Dame's path this year, as it won the C-USA title in its first season there after winning last year's Sun Belt crown.
Irish Trio Earns All-ACC Honors
On Tuesday, sophomore guard Jewell Loyd and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride earned spots on the 10-player All-ACC First Team, while senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa was chosen for the five-player All-ACC Second Team. Notre Dame led all conference schools with three All-ACC selections this year, as chosen by the league's Blue Ribbon Panel.
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
A day after three of her Notre Dame players earned all-conference honors, head coach Muffet McGraw received her own award from the Atlantic Coast Conference when she was selected as the 2014 ACC Coach of the Year, the league office announced Wednesday.
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 has won a school-record 26 consecutive road games (35 in a row in the regular season, and 42 of its last 47 overall), including the March 2 victory at No. 13/17 North Carolina State. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
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
Notre Dame has won 26 consecutive home games since a 73-61 loss to third-ranked Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion. As of Monday, the Fighting Irish are tied with Dayton for the nation's second-longest active home winning streak, with this run also the second-longest in school history (longest since a school-record 51-game stretch from Dec. 12, 1998-Feb. 19, 2002).
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
Notre Dame currently leads the nation with a .514 field goal percentage, highlighted by 19 games this season in which the Fighting Irish have shot better than 50 percent, including six games where they topped 60 percent from the field.
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
Not only has Notre Dame shot better than 60 percent from the field in six games this season, but the Fighting Irish have put up similar sizzling shooting numbers in single halves this year.
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
Although not usually a primary part of the Notre Dame arsenal, the Fighting Irish have found the three-point shot much to their liking this season. Notre Dame ranks second in the nation with a .405 three-point percentage, with four different players connecting at 40 percent or better from beyond the arc (and another at .372).
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
As of Monday, the Fighting Irish rank second in assists at 21.1 per game (Connecticut is first at 22.0).
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
Notre Dame has scored at least 100 points in a school-record five games this season (with three other games of 95-99 points), topping last year's mark of three triple-digit outings.
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
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in 20 games this year, going 20-0 in those contests. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 95-5 (.950) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including wins in 65 of their last 66 such outings (the lone loss coming in last year's NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinal against Connecticut).
Nearly In A Class By Themselves
For the third consecutive season, a Notre Dame senior class is threatening to re-set the bar in terms of career wins by one group. The current class of tri-captains Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride is tied for first all-time with 130 wins (130-14, .903), matching the seniors from 2012-13.
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
Senior tri-captains Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa will spend their final season at Notre Dame steadily climbing the program's all-time scoring list, after both entered the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club last year.
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).
McBride Is Money
Following her team's 81-70 win over No. 7 Duke on Feb. 23, sophomore guard Jewell Loyd described her senior backcourt mate and tri-captain Kayla McBride quite simply:
"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
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa (nicknamed "Ace") is making her way up Notre Dame's career charts in both rebounds and double-doubles. She currently ranks sixth on the rebounding list (914) and is tied for sixth on the double-doubles chart (26), moving up one spot on the latter rundown with her 21 points and 10 boards against Georgia Tech on Feb. 17.
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).
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd has continued her development as one of the top young talents in the country this season, building on last year's selection as the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year.
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
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd has scored in double figures in 34 consecutive games, dating back to March 11, 2013, when she had eight points in Notre Dame's 83-59 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 16/15 Louisville at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
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
Twice this year, Notre Dame has recorded key wins over top-10 opponents thanks to strong defense from a player better known for her offense.
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.
Freshman Lindsay Allen got the call from head coach Muffet McGraw to start at point guard in Notre Dame's season opener against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9 at Purcell Pavilion. Allen finished with 11 points in her debut game, including the team's first five points of the season.
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
Another reason for Notre Dame's success this season has been the performance of its reserves, who are averaging 26 points per game and have outscored the opponent's bench by a double-digit margin (26.0 ppg. to 15.9 ppg.).
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
Certainly a leading candidate as one of the nation's most improved players would have to be Notre Dame sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey. The Belmar, N.J., resident has emerged as a key reserve for the Fighting Irish, averaging 9.0 points and 2.5 assists per game along with a very solid 1.67 assist/turnover ratio, after logging 3.0 ppg. and 1.3 apg. with a 1.06 A/TO mark last year.
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
With a win in Friday's ACC quarterfinal, Notre Dame would advance to the tournament's semifinal round at 5 p.m. (ET) Saturday at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. The opponent would come from a pool that includes No. 4 seed North Carolina State (which earned a double-bye into the quarterfinals), No. 5 Syracuse (which has a bye into Thursday's second round), No. 12 seed Virginia Tech and No. 13 seed Clemson (the latter two meeting in a first-round game on Wednesday).
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