March 7, 2014
Atlantic Coast Conference Championship -- Semifinal
#2/2 [#1 seed] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (30-0 / 16-0 ACC) vs. #14/17 [#4 seed] North Carolina State Wolfpack (25-6 / 11-5 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 8, 2014
TIME: 5 p.m. ET
AT: Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Coliseum (23,500)
SERIES: ND leads 2-0
1ST MTG: ND 64-53 (11/20/96)
LAST MTG: ND 84-60 (3/2/14)
TV: ESPNU/WatchESPN (live) (Pam Ward, p-b-p / Debbie Antonelli, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: theacc.com
No. 2 Fighting Irish Take On No. 14/17 North Carolina State In ACC Semifinals
After a strong performance in their ACC Championship debut, No. 2 Notre Dame will face yet another tough test as the top-seeded Fighting Irish meet No. 14/17 (and fourth-seeded) North Carolina State in the tournament semifinals at 5 p.m. (ET) Saturday at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum. The game, which will be the second matchup between Notre Dame and N.C. State in the past six days, will be televised live on ESPNU and the WatchESPN mobile app, while the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast can be heard live and free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND (watchnd.tv).
Notre Dame (30-0) earned its spot in the ACC semifinals with an 83-57 victory over ninth-seeded Florida State in a quarterfinal contest on Friday afternoon in Greensboro. After spotting the Seminoles the game's first six points, the Fighting Irish erupted, using a 21-0 run midway through the first half and a .654 field goal percentage in the period to seize control, with FSU never getting closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd led four Notre Dame players in double figures with 17 points, while senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride added 13 points and sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey came off the bench to drop in 12 points on 4-of-6 three-pointers.
The Notre Dame-North Carolina State Series
Notre Dame and North Carolina State will be playing for just the third time ever, but the second time in less than a week. The Fighting Irish are 2-0 all-time against the Wolfpack, with Saturday's game being the first between the schools in postseason play.
The Last Time Notre Dame and North Carolina State Met
Notre Dame's first run through the Atlantic Coast Conference couldn't have gone any better.
The second-ranked Fighting Irish polished off a perfect debut season in the ACC by beating No. 13/17 North Carolina State 84-60 on March 2 in Raleigh, N.C.
Natalie Achonwa scored 19 points and Jewell Loyd added 18 points for the Fighting Irish, who shot 56 percent and led by 30 after an overwhelming second-half run helped them cap the first undefeated regular season for an ACC school since the 2007-08 North Carolina team.
In the second half, Notre Dame scored 48 points and shot 64.5 percent.
Miah Spencer had a season-high 18 points for the Wolfpack, who missed 10 consecutive shots shortly after halftime and went scoreless for 7 1/2 minutes as the Fighting Irish turned a tight game into another blowout.
Kayla McBride and Ariel Braker added 12 points for Notre Dame, which in an 11-day span beat each of the four of the North Carolina-based ACC schools by double figures -- and three were in the top 15 at the time.
They finally gave themselves some separation against N.C. State late in the first half, then really broke it open early in the second by reeling off 17 straight points during the transition-fueled 23-4 run that effectively ended it.
Kody Burke finished with 15 points and Markeisha Gatling added 12 and 11 rebounds for the Wolfpack.
Other Notre Dame-North Carolina State Series Tidbits
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:
Fighting Irish In The ACC Championship
Notre Dame is in the midst of its first ACC Championship appearance this weekend, looking to build upon its success in prior conference tournaments, a tradition that has included six postseason crowns.
Since 1995-96, the Fighting Irish have compiled a 25-17 (.595) record in conference tournament play. 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). In addition, the Fighting Irish have now reached the conference tournament semifinals 12 of the past 19 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
With Friday's ACC quarterfinal win over Florida State, Notre Dame has reached the 30-win mark for the fourth consecutive season and the sixth time in program history. Prior to 2010-11, the Fighting Irish had never had back-to-back 30-win seasons, with its five prior campaigns of at least 30 victories coming in 1996-97 (31-7), 2000-01 (34-2), 2010-11 (31-8), 2011-12 (35-4) and 2012-13 (35-2).
Getting The Jump
At 30-0, 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 30-game winning streak is tied for the 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 second-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 65-2 (.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 owns the nation's longest winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll), having earned 49 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).
Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Notre Dame has played 51 times when it has had a short one-day break (or less) between games.
When faced with such a tight turnaround, the Fighting Irish have risen to the occasion in recent seasons, going 42-9 (.824) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes during the past six years.
Saturday will mark just the second time this season Notre Dame has played twice in less than 48 hours, having also done so back on the opening weekend of the season (Nov. 9 and 11) when it defeated both UNC Wilmington (99-50) and No. 19/18 Michigan State (81-62) at Purcell Pavilion.
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently leads the nation with a .517 field goal percentage, highlighted by 20 games this season in which the Fighting Irish have shot better than 50 percent, including seven 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 .613 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 12 games, connecting at a .676 clip (69-of-102), including 10-of-12 on Feb. 6 at Florida State, en route to a game-high 24 points.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (.528) 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 .563 (108-of-192) during her last 13 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 (.587), junior forward Markisha Wright (.583) 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 seven 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 19 of its 60 halves, equating to a 60-percent performance approximately one out of every three periods of basketball it plays, with the distribution almost even (nine 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 .408 three-point percentage, with four different players connecting at 40 percent or better from beyond the arc (and another at .370).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey leads the way for the Fighting Irish with a .412 three-point percentage that ranks fifth in the ACC, while senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (.370) stands 10th in the conference.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (.406) 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 six times this season Mabrey has canned at least four 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 (.455) and freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.429) 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 Friday, the Fighting Irish rank second in assists at 21.2 per game (Connecticut is first at 21.8).
Notre Dame also has dished out at least 20 helpers in 18 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 64.3 percent of their made field goals this year (637 of 991).
Notre Dame also ranks sixth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.43), led by two players who rank among the top 10 in the ACC in that category -- freshman guard Lindsay Allen (3rd - 2.04) and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (7th - 1.78), who both are on pace to finish with two of the top six single-season assist/turnover ratios in school history.
What's more, Allen (116 assists) and McBride (116) 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.
In addition, Allen has tied the 29-year-old Fighting Irish record for assists by a freshman, matching the production by Mary Gavin in 1984-85.
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 21 games this year, going 21-0 in those contests. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 96-5 (.950) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including wins in 66 of their last 67 such outings (the lone loss coming in last year's NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinal against Connecticut).
In A Class By Themselves
For the third consecutive season, a Notre Dame senior class has re-set the bar in terms of career wins by one group. Thanks to Friday's victory over Florida State in the ACC quarterfinals, the current class of tri-captains Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride is now first all-time with 131 wins (131-14, .903), surpassing the seniors from 2012-13.
Last year, led by its two-player senior class of Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, Notre Dame posted (at the time) 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.
Game #30 Recap: Florida State (ACC Championship Quarterfinal)
Notre Dame made its Atlantic Coast Conference tournament debut look a lot like nearly every other game it played in the league this season.
Jewell Loyd scored 17 points to lead the No. 2 Fighting Irish past Florida State 83-57 in the quarterfinals Friday, keeping them unbeaten with yet another lopsided win in their new league.
Notre Dame (30-0) ran off 21 straight points in the first half, led by 22 at halftime and never let the Seminoles flirt with any sort of a comeback.
The closest thing to a hiccup? Missing their first six shots and falling behind 6-0 shortly before that 21-0 burst.
It marked the 13th time in 17 games that the Irish have beaten an ACC opponent by at least 20 points this season, according to STATS LLC. The Irish beat league opponents by an average of 23 points in the regular season.
Kayla McBride added 13 for the top-seeded Fighting Irish, who shot 65 percent before halftime and finished at 60 percent. Notre Dame also had 24 assists on 32 baskets while getting the chance to rest its starters, none of whom played more than 30 minutes.
Natasha Howard followed up her big second-round performance with 29 points to lead ninth-seeded Florida State (20-11), which led 12-11 before Notre Dame took over.
Howard went for 30 points and 16 rebounds in Thursday's overtime win against Miami, then made 14 of 22 shots with five rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes. No other Seminoles player reached double figures, with Cheetah Delgado -- who scored 20 against the Hurricanes -- going scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting with six turnovers.
The Fighting Irish didn't need long to put their dominant form on display. After missing their first six shots, Notre Dame made 17 of 20 shots for the rest of the first half, with Loyd going 5 for 6.
Michaela Mabrey (12 points) hit consecutive three-pointers to start the 21-0 run, while Achonwa followed a short time later with a three-point play.
The Seminoles got as close as 15 four times in the second half, the last coming at 66-51 on Howard's layup with 6:18 left. But Achonwa answered with a score, McBride hit two free throws and Ariel Braker followed with a layup to push the lead back up to 72-51 with 4:07 to go.
Notre Dame scored 23 points off turnovers and made 7 of 14 three-pointers.
Beyond The Box Score -- Florida State
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director