Technical foul ignites Notre Dame's romp over Seminoles in women's hoops

South Bend Tribune

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It started off with a T.

It ended up with Florida State getting tomahawk chopped.

No. 2 Notre Dame blasted off after a technical foul in the opening seconds of the second half against Natalie Achonwa – going on a stunning 22-3 run – and torched Florida State, 81-60, Thursday night in Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball action.

Notre Dame improved to 22-0, the second-best start in program history. The Irish are one game shy of the program’s best 23-0 start, set in the 2000-2001 season.

The Irish, 9-0 in ACC play, host Syracuse on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. EST. Florida State, which was 14-1 and ranked No. 17 on Jan. 12, has now lost six of its last seven and is 15-7 overall and 3-6 in the ACC.

Achonwa finished with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting and 4-of-5 free throws. The Irish senior post also had five rebounds.

Jewell Loyd scored 18 points, Kayla McBride scored 14 points, and Taya Reimer had 12 for the Irish.

Cheetah Delgado led Florida State with 18 points.

Florida State wiped out a 14-point Notre Dame lead in the first half with a 16-5 run and trailed, 32-29, at halftime. The Seminoles took advantage of a technical foul on Achonwa to hit a pair of free throws to cut the Irish lead to 32-31 at the 19:37 mark of the second half.

And then … boom.

“I think we got angry,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said of the technical aftermath. “I think it spurred us on a little bit. I think we like a physical game. We shouldn’t have been surprised by that. I thought we responded well.”

After a Florida State missed a chance to take the lead when a layup attempt rolled off the rim, the Irish turned in a masterpiece stretch in a matter of 7:41. The 22-3 run featured power moves to the hoop by Achnowa and Reimer and 3s by McBride and Michaela Mabrey, but the magical moments belonged to Loyd.

A 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, Loyd launched for two dramatic alley-oops. Loyd’s breath-taking airborne shot with 11:22 left in the game capped the 22-3 run and gave the Irish a 20-point lead at 56-36 in what turned out to be the last gasp for the Seminoles.

“Jewell, I think, was her own highlight film for a little six-minute stretch,” McGraw said. “She was phenomenal.

“Jewell took the game over. She had her own run. It was really fun to watch. I think we turned into fans on the bench for a few minutes and enjoyed the show.”

Although it looked tough, Loyd said that the alley oop was an easy play for her.

“We practice that all the time,” she said. “It was a great pass by Michaela Mabrey. It’s just fun.”

Achonwa got the Irish rolling early, scoring 11 of Notre Dame’s first 14 points. The Irish hit Florida State with a 15-2 run to build a 27-13 lead. The Seminoles were 1-of-11 shooting and had four turnovers during the Irish surge.

Achonwa scored her 24 points in 26 minutes.

“I think before the game, coach said, against their 1-3-1 zone, we wanted to look inside,” Achonwa said. “Today, we really stuck true to the game plan that we put in (in) practice and in the shoot-around. The guards were finding me. They were drawing two defenders and just throwing it in. Luckily, I was able to catch and finish.”

FSU’s Natasha Howard was held scoreless by the Irish until the 6:25 mark of the first half, but then the Seminoles’ forward went on a tear. Howard scored eight of Florida State’s next 10 points after her first hoop to highlight the Seminoles run.

Notre Dame had a chance to connect on a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half, but a 3 by Mabrey was launched a blink after time expired.

McGraw was much more pleased with the Irish effort in the second half.

“We got them to miss some shots and then we connected on a couple of 3’s,” McGraw said. “(Michaela Mabrey) came in and gave us a boost, as always. Jewell Loyd hit one, Kayla McBride hit one. We got rolling.

“We hit layups, we got going in transition. We just want to get out and run. I thought we did a much better job of that in the second half, because we rebounded better.”

Notre Dame was outrebounded 38-34 by Florida State, but outrebounded the Seminoles 19-18 in the final 20 minutes. The Irish shot 53 percent (31-of-58), and limited Florida State to 35 percent (25-of-71).

Howard, who entered the game averaging 18.2 points, scored 11. She scored eight of her points in a span of 4:20 during the Seminoles’ late second-half flurry, and scored three points the rest of the game.

Florida State coach Sue Semrau was impressed by the Irish attack.

“They are just intelligent,” Semrau said of Notre Dame. “They play extremely intelligent basketball. If you are talking about an explosive run, they exploit every little mistake that you make. They are just extremely heady.

“Jewell Lloyd’s athleticism is really tough to guard. Kayla (McBride), I coached her in USA basketball. She can defend and she can shoot. She has gotten much better at her time at Notre Dame. When you put Natalie (Achonwa) in the middle and she is as efficient as she was, then they are a tough team to guard. That’s why they are undefeated.”

NOTRE DAME (22-0): Natalie Achonwa 10-12 4-5 24, Ariel Braker 1-2 1-1 3, Lindsay Allen 0-3 0-0 0, Kayla McBride 5-13 2-2 14, Jewell Loyd 7-13 2-4 18, Whitney Holloway 0-0 0-0 0, Kristina Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Taya Reimer 5-8 2-2 12, Madison Cable 1-4 2-2 4, Michaela Mabrey 2-3 0-0 6, Hannah Huffman 0-0 0-0 0, Markisha Wright 0-0 0-0 0, Diamond Thompson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-58 13-16 81.

FLORIDA STATE (15-7): Ivey Slaughter 2-6 3-4 7, Natasha Howard 5-13 1-2 11, Morgan Jones 3-16 2-2 8, Cheetah Delgado 9-14 0-0 18, Brittany Brown 4-11 0-0 10, Kai James 0-0 0-0 0, Emiah Bingley 1-6 2-2 4, Lauren Coleman 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 25-71 8-10 60.

Halftime — Notre Dame 32-29. 3-Point Goals — Notre Dame 6-13 (Mabrey 2-3, Loyd 2-3, McBride 2-5, Cable 0-2), Florida St. 2-17 (Brown 2-5, Delgado 0-1, Coleman 0-2, Bingley 0-3, Jones 0-6). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Notre Dame 34 (Braker 6), Florida St. 38 (Jones 10). Assists — Notre Dame 19 (Allen 6), Florida St. 8 (Delgado 4). Total Fouls — Notre Dame 13, Florida St. 15. Technical — Achonwa. A — 2,331.

Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer (12) is fouled on a layup attempt by Florida State's Morgan Jones (1) during their ACC matchup in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/PHIL SEARS)