Notre Dame women's basketball: Irish paint a pretty picture

Curt Rallo
South Bend Tribune

ANN ARBOR

Natalie Achonwa grabbed a rebound underneath the Michigan hoop, turned and started to drive down the court. Seeing Kayla McBride sprinting to her right, Achonwa made a left-handed dish in stride to McBride.

McBride drove, drawing Michigan’s defense, and then passed the back ball to Achonwa as she raced down the lane for a fastbreak lay-up.

Art took a basketball form at times Saturday night, as Notre Dame defeated Michigan, 86-64, Saturday night. It was Notre Dame’s 10th consecutive victory against a Big Ten opponent.

No. 4 Notre Dame (9-0) returns to action on Sunday, Dec. 22, when the Irish play Central Michigan (3-4). The Irish have now won 32 consecutive regular-season games and have won a school-record 25 consecutive regular-season road games. Michigan (7-4) hosts Southern (2-3) on Friday, Dec. 20.

Jewell Loyd led Notre Dame with 20 points.

Achonwa scored 18 points and had nine rebounds. Achonwa suffered a minor knee injury and walked off the court with 3:05 left in the game.

Michaela Mabrey scored 14 points for the Irish.

Shannon Smith led Michigan with 23 points.

Whether it was Lindsay Allen finding McBride on a perfectly executed back-door lay-up, or Madison Cable swiping the ball and driving in for the fastbreak hoop, the court became canvas for the Irish in the first half.

Notre Dame crafted a masterpiece in the first 20 minutes, taking a 47-23 lead. The Irish shot a sizzling 22-of-32 (69 percent) thanks to a stunning transition game. The Irish outscored Michigan 19-2 in points off of turnovers and 12-0 in fastbreak points in the first half.

It was a different story in the second half as Michigan used a zone to slow the Irish. Michigan outscored Notre Dame, 41-39 in the second half. The Irish only hit two of their first seven shots of the second half.

Notre Dame never let the Wolverines get closer than 19, and used a 10-2 run late in the second half to build their lead to 77-50.

Notre Dame finished shooting 34-of-58 for 59 percent, and limited Michigan to 23-of-54 for 43 percent. The Irish also helped themselves at the free-throw line, hitting 13-of-14. The points off of turnovers swung Michigan’s way in the second half, 10-4, and the fastbreak points in the second half were 2-2.

“I really thought the first half was good, at both ends,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “The second half was not as good at either end.

“We really got the transition game going early. I was happy with the offense and the defense in the first half. We let Smith get loose a little more than I wanted to. We tried to trap her off the ball screen, but we were ineffective guarding her one-on-one. I think we did a lot of good things, overall.”

Notre Dame torched Michigan’s man-to-man, but the Irish were slowed down by the zone in the second half.

“We slowed ourselves with the zone,” McGraw said. “They packed it in, and I was trying to get a post touch before we shot a 3. We forced it inside quite a bit and turned it over quite a bit. That was my fault. We should have just opened it up and let them shoot some 3’s.”

Loyd scored her 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

“I think my mindset was the big key,” Loyd said. “I wanted to come out and be aggressive. I haven’t been shooting the ball well recently. It was good for me to come out and get a good feel. I came out an hour early and got my fundamental shooting done. I think that helped a little bit.”

Achonwa turned in 8-of-11 shooting on a variety of dazzling post moves and a jumper from the elbow.

Mabrey’s 14 points included 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.

“Michaela Mabrey had a great game,” McGraw said. “She came in ready. She did some good things at both ends, made some nice passes, helped us in the press, made some big shots. They started to make a little bit of a run and she made a 3 from long range. I was really pleased with her.”

Michigan, which turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, limited its turnovers to six in the second half.

“We settled down and we played well in the second half,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico, who has 299 career victories. “We outscored them in the second half. They kept their starters in … until about two or three minutes were left in the game, and we took ours out as well.

“I was really encouraged. We spoke a lot at halftime about fighting back and not quitting and relaxing and play with confidence and all of those things, and I thought we did a much better job of that in the second half. I thought we were surprised in the first half and caught a little off guard, a little shaky, but we responded, and I was happy with that.”

NOTRE DAME (9-0): Natalie Achonwa 8-11 2-2 18, Ariel Braker 0-0 4-4 4, Lindsay Allen 2-6 3-3 8, Kayla McBride 4-10 0-0 8, Jewell Loyd 10-14 0-0 20, Whitney Holloway 0-0 0-0 0, Kristina Nelson 0-0 1-2 1, Taya Reimer 2-2 3-3 7, Madison Cable 2-3 0-0 4, Michaela Mabrey 5-10 0-0 14, Hannah Huffman 0-0 0-0 0, Markisha Wright 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 34-58 13-14 86.

MICHIGAN (7-4): Cyesha Goree 6-11 3-4 15, Val Driscoll 1-1 0-0 2, Madison Ristovski 1-10 0-0 2, Siera Thompson 4-10 0-0 10, Nicole Elmblad 3-7 3-4 9, Shannon Smith 7-12 8-9 23, Paige Rakers 1-3 0-0 3, Danielle Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Rebecca Lyttle 0-0 0-0 0, Kendra Seto 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 14-17 64.

Halftime — Notre Dame 47-23. 3-Point Goals — Notre Dame 5-15 (Mabrey 4-8, Allen 1-3, McBride 0-1, Cable 0-1, Loyd 0-2), Michigan 4-11 (Thompson 2-3, Rakers 1-3, Smith 1-4, Ristovski 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Notre Dame 29 (Achonwa 9), Michigan 26 (Driscoll, Goree 7). Assists — Notre Dame 22 (Allen, McBride 4), Michigan 8 (Elmblad, Smith 3). Total Fouls — Notre Dame 14, Michigan 13. A — 3,330.

Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd (32) dribbles during the second half of an NCAA women's college basketball game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)