June 5, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Half a world away from the raucous sellout crowds at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame junior All-America guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) still feels right at home on the asphalt outdoor courts of Moscow, Russia.
Suiting up with the USA Basketball 3x3 National Team at this week's FIBA World Championship, Loyd and her American teammates got off to a flying start on Thursday, beginning pool play with dominating victories over Hungary (21-5) and Brazil (21-8). Loyd scored six points against Hungary and seven points against Brazil (scoring is by ones and twos, instead of the conventional two and three points), as Team USA ended both games by reaching the 21-point mark before the 10-minute time limit.
"We were just being tough and physical, going back to our plays and not doing too much one-on-one. We were going back to our plays and getting to the free-throw line," Loyd said about the USA's victory over Brazil. "They got into foul trouble, so basically we were going to the free-throw line almost the whole game. So, that helped us a lot."
The United States team, which includes three other collegians in Cierra Burdick (Tennessee), Sara Hammond (Louisville) and Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina), will wrap up pool play on Friday with three games, taking on Ukraine (8:20 a.m. ET), Spain (10:20 a.m. ET) and Argentina (12:40 p.m. ET) -- the Spain game also can be seen live on the official FIBA 3x3 World Championship YouTube Channel.
"I think they're all really physical," Loyd noted about Friday's three pool play opponents. "Everyone here can shoot, and they can also attack the ball. We need to stay true to our principles a little bit and have faith in our system, and we should be fine."
The top four finishers in each of the four six-team pools will advance to the knockout rounds that begin Saturday with round-of-16 and quarterfinal games. The semifinals and gold/bronze medal games then will take place on Sunday.
The official Notre Dame women's basketball Twitter feeds (@ndwbbsid and @ndwbb) will have periodic updates on Team USA's progress throughout the FIBA 3x3 World Championship, with a full recap following its conclusion at the end of the weekend. Fans also can follow the action through the official web sites for USA Basketball (usab.com) and the FIBA 3x3 World Championship (russia2014.fiba.com), or those outlets' respective Twitter feeds (@usabasketball, @3x3planet).
In addition to the team championship, there will be individual competitions taking place with medals on the line for the women in a skills challenge, free throw shooting and a shoot-out (three-point) competition. Loyd will represent USA Basketball in the skills challenge that starts with qualifiers at 7:20 a.m. (ET) Saturday and concludes with the final at 8 a.m. (ET) Sunday.
This is the second edition of the FIBA 3x3 World Championship, with the USA Basketball women, led by former Notre Dame All-America guard Skylar Diggins, taking the gold in 2012. Diggins also earned a silver medal while representing Team USA in the skills contest.
This year's FIBA 3x3 World Championship features a mix of old and young talent. Among the more recognizable names competing in Moscow this week is Belgium's 33-year-old center Ann Wauters, a former No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 WNBA Draft by the now-defunct Cleveland Rockers. Wauters later played for the WNBA's New York Liberty, San Antonio Silver Stars (as a teammate of former Notre Dame All-American Ruth Riley, helping the Stars to the 2008 WNBA Finals) and the Seattle Storm before returning to her native Belgium following the 2012 season.
The rules for international 3x3 competition, although a bit more polished, are similar to those seen in pick-up games across the country. Games are 10 minutes in length or the first team to reach 21 points, scoring by ones and twos (a regular field goal is worth one point, a basket from beyond the arc is worth two points). There's also a 12-second shot clock and the team on defense must clear the ball out beyond the arc before beginning its offensive set. The games are officiated by 1-2 referees, with teams in the bonus (one free throw) after the seventh team foul, while shooting fouls are awarded one or two free throw attempts based on the location of the shot.
"It's definitely more physical than in the U.S., by far," Loyd said. "They kind of let you get away with a lot of pushing and stuff. We had to adjust a little bit on offense and our mindset a little bit, but other than that, it's been a pretty good competition, and we're looking forward to playing again (Friday).
"You can't really rely on your jump shot too much, you have to learn how to attack, create for others," she added. "Drive and dish is pretty big, find the mismatches a little bit. The key is to know your strengths. You might have an open shot, but because of the wind you might have to take it in. You have to be able to finish through contact and go up strong."
This week marks the second consecutive summer Loyd has traveled abroad, following Notre Dame's 10-day tour of England and Spain last August (Loyd didn't play due in any of her team's three exhibition games on the tour due to an ankle injury).
Loyd, who also represented USA Basketball overseas in 2010 as part of the victorious U17 World Championship team in Toulouse, France, already has had a chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of Moscow, taking in the unique Russian experience that few Americans get to see.
"We went to the Red Square (Wednesday) night," Loyd said. "It was awesome. It was a great atmosphere. People over here are really nice. It's just awesome kind of learning (about) their culture and embracing it. It's pretty fun."
THE SCHEDULE PUZZLE
Notre Dame added another piece to its 2014-15 schedule on Wednesday with the announcement of the pairings for the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Fighting Irish drew former ACC member Maryland for this year's Challenge, with the rematch of the 2014 NCAA Women's Final Four semifinal set for Dec. 3, 2014, at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne (time and broadcast coverage are still to be determined).
Wednesday's announcement also creates a second unique stretch of games in the nascent Notre Dame schedule, as the Fighting Irish will play their other 2014 Final Four opponent, title-game foe Connecticut three days later on Dec. 6 in the 13th annual Jimmy V Women's Classic at Purcell Pavilion (a game that will be televised live on ESPN or ESPN2 at a time to be determined). It will be the first regular season non-conference meeting between the longtime BIG EAST Conference rivals, who have played 42 times since 1995 (by far the most in Notre Dame history), and will be squaring off at Purcell Pavilion for the first time since the Fighting Irish earned a remarkable 96-87 triple-overtime victory on March 4, 2013, sealing the program's second consecutive outright BIG EAST regular season title.
Another set of games that already was unveiled is the inaugural Hall of Fame Challenge, a showcase co-hosted by Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). Notre Dame will serve as one of the two opening-round host sites for the eight-team tournament, welcoming Holy Cross, Harvard and Quinnipiac to Purcell Pavilion on Nov. 23-25 for three days of round-robin, doubleheader action. All four teams (plus Alabama, Georgetown, Kansas and Temple, who will play at Kansas) then travel to Uncasville, Conn., on Nov. 30 for the final day of the Challenge at Mohegan Sun Arena (home of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun and site of the 2014 WNBA Draft). Notre Dame will play Kansas as part of a quadruple-header of women's basketball action that afternoon, with tickets for games at Mohegan Sun going on sale Aug. 7.
The Fighting Irish will be playing all three of their opening-round Hall of Fame Challenge opponents for the first time, while the showcase game against Kansas will be the second meeting in their series. Notre Dame defeated the Jayhawks, 93-63 back in the 2013 NCAA Norfolk Regional semifinals (Sweet 16) at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va.
Although dates and times have not yet been set, the Fighting Irish also have a handle on locations for their 16 ACC games this season. Notre Dame will play home-and-home series with Boston College and Georgia Tech, while also entertaining Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Wake Forest next season, with both Florida State and Virginia making their inaugural trips to Purcell Pavilion. In addition, the Fighting Irish will travel to Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Syracuse and Virginia Tech next year, venturing to Clemson and North Carolina for the first time in program history.
The full Notre Dame women's basketball schedule traditionally has been released in September after the ACC announces dates for all conference games and the complete Fighting Irish docket has been approved by the University's Faculty Board on Athletics.
Season tickets for the 2014-15 Notre Dame women's basketball home schedule are expected to go on sale later this summer (exact date/time is still to be determined), while single-game tickets for all Fighting Irish home games will go on sale in late September or early October. Fans are reminded that the Dec. 3 ACC/Big Ten Challenge game in Fort Wayne will be included as part of next year's season ticket package. For more information, visit the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site (UND.com/tickets) or follow the office on Twitter (@NDTix).
LOTS OF CAKE AND CANDLES
June is a popular month for birthdays within the Notre Dame women's basketball program. The flurry of celebrations got underway Wednesday with celebrations for associate head coach Carol Owens and administrative assistant/special events coordinator Sharla Lewis, and continued Thursday with a birthday for associate coach Beth Cunningham.
Junior guard Hannah Huffman will take her turn in front of the cake and candles on June 9, with associate director of operations & technology Angie Potthoff celebrating her birthday a week later on June 16. Sophomore forward Kristina Nelson has her party set for June 21, and rounding out the month is 2014 graduate and former Fighting Irish All-America guard Kayla McBride, whose birthday is June 25.
FIGHTING IRISH IN THE WNBA
Speaking of McBride, the Erie, Pa., native is only eight days removed from a scintillating career-high 30-point performance in her fifth professional game, as her San Antonio Stars outlasted Diggins and the Tulsa Shock, 82-79 on May 28 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. McBride capped her 10-for-16 shooting night with an off-balance three-pointer from the right wing with 13.4 seconds remaining, making her the 15th rookie in WNBA history to score 30 points in a game and logging the most points ever by a Notre Dame alum in a single WNBA game, topping Ruth Riley's 27 points for the then-Detroit Shock against Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 3 of the 2003 WNBA Finals (see McBride's game-winning shot at 1:45 of the linked highlight package).
McBride has started all seven games this season for San Antonio (3-4), averaging 11.7 points per game with a .419 three-point percentage and .938 free throw percentage. She is third among all WNBA rookies in scoring, second in three-point percentage and fourth in free throw percentage (the latter two categories among those making at least one shot per game).
Meanwhile, Diggins continued to shine as one of the top second-year players in the WNBA, averaging 16.8 points, 5.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game as the starting point guard for Tulsa (0-5). Diggins currently ranks ninth in the WNBA in scoring and fourth in assists, one of five players in the league to rank in the top 10 in both categories.
Another Notre Dame All-America alum, Devereaux Peters ('11), returned to the court this week for the Minnesota Lynx after being sidelined following preseason arthroscopic knee surgery. Following a rough season debut on May 30 (three fouls in three minutes against San Antonio), Peters came back two points and four rebounds in nine minutes at San Antonio on June 1. The third-year forward continues to work her way back into the regular rotation for the Lynx, who remain the WNBA's only unbeaten team thus far (7-0).
McBride is the next Fighting Irish alum in WNBA action, making her professional debut at the World's Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden on Thursday night when San Antonio takes on the New York Liberty at 7 p.m. (ET) live on the MSG Network and online at WNBA LiveAccess.
Diggins and the Shock open a four-game homestand in Tulsa on Friday, welcoming the Phoenix Mercury to the BOK Center for an 8 p.m. (ET) game that can be seen on WNBA LiveAccess.
Peters and the Lynx also will return to the hardwood Friday, tipping off a three-game road trip with a 10 p.m. (ET) contest against the Seattle Storm at KeyArena in Seattle. That game can be seen over-the-air on the LiveWell Network (which includes digital channel 28.2 in South Bend), as well as WNBA LiveAccess.
FOLLOWING THE FIGHTING IRISH
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