WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Notre Dame women's basketball: Loyd gets tougher

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

Jewell Loyd wanted to be tougher for her sophomore season with the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.

So the 5-foot-10 guard figured the best way to add some punch to her attack was to not only study a basketball great, but also study a boxer.

“I really focused on watching Kobe Bryant and watching Floyd Mayweather this past summer, how they prepared for their games and fights, how they spoke, how everything,” Loyd said. “I studied them all summer.”

Loyd hopes to display her tougher play Tuesday at 7 p.m., when No. 5 Notre Dame (4-0) hosts No. 25 DePaul (3-0) in an NCAA resume-builder.

Finishing last season with an average of 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds, Loyd has boosted her numbers in the early going this season to 18.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.

“Floyd Mayweather’s mentality is unreal,” Loyd said. “How he trains is on another level from everybody else, what he does over time. How he prepares, how he treats his people. He’s family first, and that’s very important with me. My brother is my trainer, his father is his trainer. His work ethic is unbelievable. I think I’m tougher mentally from studying Floyd Mayweather.”

Loyd said that the toughness will help in a rivalry game against DePaul. She played high school ball against many of the players on the Blue Demons’ roster, and grew up about 20 minutes from the northside Chicago campus.

Notre Dame plays DePaul as a non-conference opponent after the break-up of the Big East. The Irish are now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and DePaul is in the new version of the Big East.

“I’m glad we still play DePaul,” Loyd said. “It’s a good rivalry for us. It’s definitely a high emotions kind of game.

“I have a lot of respect for DePaul. I’m really good friends with (DePaul coach) Doug Bruno. We go back a long way. I have a lot of respect for what he does for this program. I’m excited to play against DePaul.”

Irish coach Muffet McGraw said that when the Irish departed the Big East, maintaining ties with DePaul was a priority.

“I was anxious to play DePaul, Marquette ... we called Louisville,” McGraw said. “We wanted to play a lot of the teams we were in the Big East with. We also like games we can bus to. We’ll have a home-and-home with them. It’s good fan interest. We’ll get a good crowd. They’ll bring some fans. It’s a good game for us.”

Loyd has shown that she can do more than score and rebound this season.

“I’m really pleased with the way Jewell is helping the point guards, she’s really being aggressive with the ball, getting us into the offense ... she’s doing a really good job with that,” McGraw said. “She’s really a tough matchup. She’s the toughest matchup that we have, because of her athletic ability.”

According to McGraw, the Blue Demons have a tough perimeter attack that will challenge the Irish zone.

DePaul’s roster includes former Penn High School star Kelsey Reynolds, a 5-foot-7 senior guard who averages 3.3 points. Reynolds has five steals and four assists in three games. Logansport (Ind.) native Jasmine Penny, a 6-1 post, averages 17.3 points and 6.7 rebounds a game for DePaul.

“They’ve got 3-point shooters, as usual. They have probably stronger guards. (Post) Jasmine Penny is playing really well in the post. They have more of a four-guard look this season, and they average nine 3-pointers a game.

“We’ve really been working hard on our zone. That’s going to be a challenge for it.”

McGraw would like to see Notre Dame press DePaul, but that the Irish have faced limitations in personnel.

“I thought the press was very effective (in Saturday’s 76-54 victory against the University of Pennsylvania),” McGraw said. “For us to get two 10-second violations was pretty good, for us not having worked on the press very much.

“I think it depends on the combination that we have on the floor. There are certain people who can only play certain spots. Sometimes when we sub, we don’t have the right people in the game to press. Having somebody at the point of the press, that’s the one that we struggle with. Michaela (Mabrey) can do it, Ariel (Braker) can do it, but without either one of them in the game, there really isn’t anyone who can play the point.”

Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd, left, moves by Michigan State's Annalise Pickrel during the women's basketball game against Michigan State on Monday. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN