Notre Dame women's basketball: McBride, sister, piling up the wins

South Bend Tribune

If the NCAA kept rankings for sisters in women’s college basketball, it would be tough to top what Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride and Indiana’s Karlee McBride have done for their teams this season.

The McBride sisters, from Erie, Pa., and their teams are a combined 26-0.

Kayla, a 5-11 senior guard for No. 2-ranked, 12-0 Notre Dame, averages 15.2 points a game.

Karlee, a 5-10 freshman guard, averages 4.8 points for the 14-0 Hoosiers. Karlee scored a career-high 14 points on Thursday (including four 3-pointers) to help Indiana upset No. 22 Iowa, 86-84.

Kayla McBride and the Irish will try to make it 13-0 on Sunday when they take on Clemson (8-6) in Notre Dame’s inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball game. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. Indiana’s next test is Monday night at No. 17 Purdue.

Kayla McBride said that if the Irish and Hoosiers meet up in the NCAA Tournament, expect some bruises.

“It will be a battle,” McBride said. “We played against each other when I was a senior in high school and she was a freshman. There were a few punches thrown, but it’s just sisterly love. No one wants their sister to beat them. I’m really proud of her. I think she’s going to be great at IU.”

McBride is delighted to see her sister contributing to IU’s success and tries to offer sisterly advice.

“It’s cool for her to finally be in college and experience things that I’ve experienced the past three years,” McBride said. “I’m really excited for her. Her team is doing really well, and she loves it down there. I’m excited to see where she goes from her freshman year to her senior year.

“I think every freshman has their struggles. I had my freshman struggles. It’s easy for me to pass that wisdom on to her and not let her make the same mistakes I did. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, but she’s always my little sister, and I’ll always be there to give her advice.”

Kayla McBride said college coaches should pay attention to what’s coming up in Erie.

“There are more McBrides coming up, stay tuned,” McBride said. “I have a 13-year old brother, Aaron, and a seven-year old sister, Jayden, and they both play basketball. They’re always in the gym. When I go home, all four of us are in the gym. There are definitely some ballers coming up in the McBride family. The coaches better be looking.”

Home-court advantage

Notre Dame leads the nation in field-goal percentage (51.4 percent), and the Irish get a boost in their shooting when they are on the Purcell Pavilion court.

Notre Dame is shooting 54 percent at home this season (221-of-409) as opposed to 44 percent (119-268) on the road. The Irish are 42-of-69 (61 percent) in their one game at a neutral site.

In their last road game, a 70-58 victory, the Irish shot 41 percent (29-of-70) at Oregon State.

In the return home for Thursday’s 94-51 victory against South Dakota State, the Irish hit 54 percent (37-of-69), including 63.4 percent (26-of-41) in the second half.

“We got some of the same shots at Oregon State,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We missed a lot of layups there. I thought we worked the backdoor really well (on Thursday). We got a lot of easy shots around the basket. I think when you score inside with (Natalie Achonwa) shooting it well, that definitely makes a difference in the shooting percentage.

Kayla McBride led the Irish with 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting, including two 3-pointers.

“The advantage of the home court is just comfort,” McBride said. “It’s where we practice. On the road, it’s a different environment. The crowd is different. It’s just good to be home.”

One contradiction to the home-shooting edge was Michaela Mabrey’s 0-of-11 night. Mabrey entered the game averaging 10.5 points a game and 47 percent shooting, including 43 percent from 3-point range.

“That’s never going to happen again,” McGraw said. “That was an anomaly. Her job is to shoot the ball. I was really proud of her, because a lot of people would have stopped shooting. She really needed to continue to shoot it. I was really happy with her.”

Irish reserve Madison Cable’s numbers certainly show a home-court appreciation. Cable is 11-of-18 from 3-point range (61 percent) at home, and 2-of-5 (40 percent) on the road.

Return trip planned

Notre Dame will play at South Dakota State either next season or the season after that. It’s an opportunity for the Jackrabbits’ program that coach Aaron Johnston appreciates.

“Muffet is gracious just to play this game,” Johnston said. “There are probably challenges that they have with scheduling. It’s great that they are willing to do that for us, and for every team. It’s great that Notre Dame is willing to travel and go away from home. They draw really well here. It would be easy for them to just stay here and play at home all the time. It’s pretty unique and a nice thing that they do for women’s basketball.”

Board work

Johnston said he was most impressed with Notre Dame’s rebounding. The Irish outrebounded the Jackrabbits 53-28. Notre Dame is No. 4 in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-15.4).

“Notre Dame is very persistent on the glass,” Johnston said. “There are always people there. There’s never a time when they take a play off. They have very good players, very athletic players, very strong players, but there’s just a persistence that hopefully we can learn from.”

Notre Dame's Kayla McBride and her sister Karlee, a freshman at Indiana, are a combined 26-0 this season.