Loyd lifts Notre Dame women after dramatic collapse

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- No. 2-ranked Notre Dame saw a 22-point lead, its defense and at times, its poise, disappear.

Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd made sure the Irish victory didn’t vanish.

Loyd scored seven of Notre Dame’s final nine points to help the Irish survive an ambush at No. 8-ranked Mary-land.

Loyd finished with a career-high 31 points, and Kayla McBride scored 20 to help the unbeaten Irish subdue Maryland, 87-83, Monday night in an Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball clash.

“I just wanted to win,” Loyd said of taking command to score seven points in the final 2:24. “Anytime that we needed something, I was trying to force it in to (Natalie Achonwa), find good shots for our shooters, and really trying to work the offense.”

McBride hit a deep jumper with 11 seconds left to give the Irish their final four-point margin. Maryland misfired at the other end, and Loyd tracked down the rebound to seal the victory.

Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas, a 6-2 forward, pounded the Irish inside to score 29 points, 19 in the second half. She also had 12 rebounds.

Notre Dame (19-0 overall, 6-0 ACC) hosts Virginia Tech (10-9, 0-6) on Thursday, and then travels to No. 3 Duke (20-1, 7-0). Notre Dame has won 42 consecutive regular-season games and 30 consecutive regular-season road games. Maryland (16-3, 4-2) plays at No. 18 North Carolina State (18-3, 5-2) on Thursday.

“If it’s possible to be disappointed after a loss, I would say that’s how I’m feeling right now,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought we completely lost our poise, which is so unusual for us. We have a (22-point lead) in the first half with two of our best players on the bench (Natalie Achonwa and McBride with two fouls each), and we couldn’t sustain it.

“(Maryland) got the momentum going early. Thomas was unbelievable. She was fantastic. I don’t think any-body has had a performance like that against us in a long time. She was phenomenal. We made some big shots when we had to. We certainly weren’t going to get any stops. That was the only way we were going to win, to outscore them.”

Down 22 points with 4:00 left in the first half, 41-19, Maryland tied the score at 60-60 with 11:40 left in the second half on a dish by Thomas to Alicia DeVaughn for a layup.

Thomas gave Maryland a 64-63 lead on a jumper in the lane with 9:59 left in the game, but the Irish answered with a 7-0 run fueled by McBride, who hit a fastbreak layup and a 3. Markisha Wright made a sensational steal and feed to McBride for the 3 that gave the Irish a 70-64 lead with 8:41 left.

The Irish defense hawked Maryland into 1-of-4 shooting and two turnovers in a six-possession stretch and Notre Dame built an eight-point lead, 74-66, with 6:56 left.

Maryland fought back to close to 75-74 with 3:31 left in the game.

A cold-blooded 3-pointer by Michaela Mabrey, who came off the bench to score 13 points, pushed the Irish lead to four points, 78-74, with 3:18 left.

Maryland answered with a layup by DeVaughn, but a three-point play by Loyd gave the Irish a five-point edge at 81-76 with 2:24 left. Lexie Brown hit a 3, and then Loyd and Brown traded jumpers to make it Notre Dame 83-81 with 1:26 left.

A putback by Loyd gave the Irish a four-point lead again, 85-81, with 1:03 left, but DeVaughn powered inside to pull the Terps within two at 85-83 with 38 seconds left.

McBride worked the clock down from 28 seconds to 11 and then pulled up for her big shot just inside the 3-point line for the 87-83 score.

“Yeah, that was kind of impromptu,” McBride said of her shot. “I saw DeVaughn was guarding me and I just tried to make a move and get a good shot that I was comfortable with taking and it happened to go in."

Notre Dame blasted to its 22-point lead at the 4:00 mark of the first half, 41-19, but Maryland cut the lead to 12 points, 47-35, by the time the halftime buzzer sounded. The Terrapins, who hit only four of their first 16 shots, hit their last six shots of the first half to go on a 12-4 run in the final 2:37. Maryland heated up to hit 10 of its first 16 shots in the second half.

Loyd spearheaded the Irish first-half assault, scoring 20 of her points. She hit 7-of-10 shots and 6-of-7 free throws in the first 20 minutes.

Notre Dame torched the Maryland defense in the first half for 67 percent shooting (18-of-27). The Irish finished 31-of-53 for 59 percent, and hit five of their last six shots to survive.

“I think we finally had a plan,” McGraw said of the Irish finish. “We looked very out of sync for a stretch. We tried to do too much with the ball. We tried to do too much out of the offense. And then we got back into the offense, and we were able to get Jewell on the block. We got some nice drives. Kayla had a nice shot, Michaela Mabrey hit a big 3, and Jewell, of course. Those three hits were some huge shots.”

Maryland coach Brenda Frese said the Terrapins’ cold start, and Notre Dame’s ability to step up at the finish was the difference.

“Like I told them in the locker room, I loved their fight,” Frese said of her team. “I thought we showed a lot of character, especially when we were down the deficit we were down.

“To be able to come back and scratch and claw and play the way the way to give ourselves a chance in the second half … but we lost this game in the first half.

“To spot them with a lead, I don’t know what it was with our slow start, but give credit where credit is due. I thought Notre Dame came out and showed their experience and their poise early as well as late game down the stretch hitting big shot after big shot.”

NOTRE DAME (19-0): Natalie Achonwa 2-3 3-4 7, Ariel Braker 3-3 0-0 6, Lindsay Allen 1-3 4-4 6, Kayla McBride 7-11 3-4 20, Jewell Loyd 12-20 7-8 31, Taya Reimer 1-4 0-0 2, Madison Cable 0-1 0-0 0, Michaela Mabrey 4-7 2-2 13, Markisha Wright 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 31-53 19-22 87.

MARYLAND (16-3): Howard 0-1 0-0 0, Thomas 10-22 9-11 29, DeVaughn 7-10 2-3 16, Brown 4-9 0-0 9, Rutan 0-2 0-0 0, Mincy 4-8 2-2 11, Moseley 3-7 2-2 8, Pfirman 0-1 0-0 0, Walker-Kimbrough 2-4 0-0 4, Jones 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 33-68 15-18 83.

Halftime — Notre Dame 47-35. 3-Point Goals — Notre Dame 6-14 (McBride 3-5, Mabrey 3-6, Allen 0-1, Cable 0-1, Loyd 0-1), Maryland 2-8 (Mincy 1-2, Brown 1-3, Moseley 0-1, Rutan 0-2). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Notre Dame 31 (Loyd 7), Maryland 29 (Thomas 12). Assists — Notre Dame 20 (Loyd 6), Mary-land 15 (Thomas 5). Total Fouls — Notre Dame 17, Maryland 22. A — 7,668.

Maryland center Alicia DeVaughn (13) tries to protect the ball as she is guarded by Notre Dame forwards Ariel Braker, left, and Taya Reimer in the first half of Monday's game in College Park, Md. AP Photo/PATRICK SEMANSKY