UPDATE: Notre Dame women put on a clinic, rout Pitt

South Bend Tribune

PITTSBURGH -- Notre Dame guard Kayla McBride leaped to grab the opening tip from Natalie Achonwa, turned and drove to the Irish basket for a quick jumper.

Instead of snowballing from there, it avalanched.

No. 2-ranked Notre Dame led by as many as 31 points in the first half and went on to crush Pittsburgh, 109-66, Thursday night in Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball action. The blowout was far short of the largest Irish victory against Pitt, a 76-point mauling, 120-44, in 2012.

McBride and Jewell Loyd scored 20 points each to spearhead the Irish attack. Natalie Achonwa scored 14 points and had seven rebounds. The Irish “Big Three” were a combined 23-of-32 shooting (72 percent) for 54 points.

Irish guard Michaela Mabrey hit 4-of-6 shots from 3-point range and finished with 13 points. Taya Reimer scored 10 points and had seven rebounds.

Notre Dame shot a sizzling 61 percent (40-of-66), including a torrid 9-of-12 (75 percent) from 3-point range.

“(Michaela Mabrey) shot it really well,” McGraw said. “It was great to see her coming off of screens and getting good looks. It was just one of those nights when it was a very friendly rim for us.”

Notre Dame (16-0 overall, 4-0 ACC) plays at No. 12 Tennessee (13-3) on Monday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. EST, and ESPN2 has the telecast. Pitt is 9-9 overall and 1-3 in the ACC. The Irish have now beat Pitt 22 times in 25 meetings.

By downing the Panthers, the Irish picked up their 39th consecutive regular-season victory, and the Irish won their 28th consecutive regular-season road victory. Notre Dame played without two post players in uniform. Senior starter Ariel Braker is sidelined with an ankle injury, and freshman reserve Diamond Thompson is ill.

Notre Dame owned a 46-18 advantage in points in the paint.

“We really were trying to go inside,” McGraw said. “That was our game plan. We wanted to start going inside. We thought we had a big mismatch in terms of size. Starting (Natalie Achonwa) and (Taya Reimer), both of them can score on the blocks. We really looked to start inside and then go outside. We got some things to open up for us on the perimeter. From there, it was just a matter of picking our spots, how we wanted to score.

“We had 25 assists and only nine turnovers. I thought those were phenomenal numbers. We really shared the ball, and shot it well. I was a little disappointed in the rebounding, but overall, it was a really great effort, start to finish.”

While the Irish lit up the scoreboard, Notre Dame shut down Pitt’s offense. Notre Dame limited Pitt to 23-of-62 shooting (37 percent).

“We had a couple of really good practices leading up to this,” McGraw said. “I’m not really happy with our defense. I thought we came out and played really hard. I thought, even in the second half, when we had a big lead, came out and continued to play hard. Offensively, things were just clicking for us, which made it a little bit easier to play defense.”

McBride, playing before a large contingent of fans from her hometown of Erie, Pa., set a tone for the Irish with her hustle play in the opening seconds. Notre Dame quickly reeled off a 12-0 run for an 18-6 lead. The Irish hit 13 of their first 17 shots (78 percent) to forge a 30-12 lead. The Irish had out nine assists before Pitt managed its first assist.

“We were sharing the ball,” McBride said. “We had 25 assists. We made the extra pass. There’s a good shot, but we can probably find a better shot, and we did. We were hitting tonight.”

Loyd shook off a 6-of-17 shooting performance at Virginia on Sunday to hit 9-of-12 against Pitt.

“I was more patient,” Loyd said. “I was relaxed and tried not to force anything. I was taking my time, and my teammates found me when I was open. I have to credit my teammates.”

Notre Dame’s Madison Cable, a Mount Lebanon (Pa.) graduate, scored seven points and had six rebounds to delight a sizable turnout of family and friends.

Brianna Kiesel scored 20 points to lead Pitt. Kiesel, a 5-7 guard, played 28 minutes, leaving the game with an apparent knee bruise.

“Watching film on this team, you try to find ways where, first of all, you can score on their defense,” first-year Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said of Notre Dame. “That’s how good they are. And then you find ways to try to stop them. You hope a team is not as good as they are on film, and this team was better against us than I even watched on film. They just find ways to exploit mismatches and scoring opportunities.

“The one thing I’ve been most impressed with them, they see the next play. Before the ball is in their hands, they see the next play, whether they have a shot, whether their teammate is open. They’re so fundamentally sound. Obviously, they shot the ball well, 9-of-12 from 3, 20-of-22 from the free-throw line. They put on a clinic. There’s no doubt about it.”

NOTRE DAME (16-0): Natalie Achonwa 6-9 2-2 14, Taya Reimer 3-8 4-4 10, Lindsay Allen 3-3 0-0 8, Kayla McBride 8-11 3-3 20, Jewell Loyd 9-12 1-1 20, Whitney Holloway 1-2 0-0 3, Kristina Nelson 2-4 0-0 4, Madison Cable 2-7 5-6 9, Michaela Mabrey 4-6 1-2 13, Hannah Huffman 1-1 0-0 2, Markisha Wright 1-3 4-4 6. Totals 40-66 20-22 109.

PITTSBURGH (9-9): Asia Logan 3-10 2-3 9, Loliya Briggs 3-9 2-2 9, Brianna Kiesel 5-12 8-8 20, Marquel Davis 4-9 2-4 10, Ashlee Anderson 1-6 0-0 2, Frederique Potvin 0-0 0-0 0, Chelsea Welch 4-7 0-0 9, Brittany Gordon 1-3 0-0 2, Chyna Golden 0-3 0-0 0, Cora McManus 2-3 1-2 5. Totals 23-62 15-19 66.

Halftime — Notre Dame 54-25. 3-Point Goals — Notre Dame 9-12 (Mabrey 4-5, Allen 2-2, Loyd 1-1, McBride 1-1, Holloway 1-1, Cable 0-2), Pittsburgh 5-15 (Kiesel 2-3, Welch 1-2, Briggs 1-3, Logan 1-4, Gordon 0-1, A. Anderson 0-2). Fouled Out — Davis. Rebounds — Notre Dame 35 (Achonwa, Reimer 7), Pittsburgh 31 (Davis 5). Assists — Notre Dame 25 (Achonwa, Mabrey 5), Pittsburgh 12 (Davis 5). Total Fouls — Notre Dame 14, Pittsburgh 20. A — 2,768.


Notre Dame's Taya Reimer (12) shoots over Pittsburgh's Loliya Briggs (1) and another defender during the first half of Thursday night's game in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo)