Notre Dame women bury Syracuse with long-range barrage

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Jewell Loyd started the game with a 3-pointer on the wing.

Minutes later, Kayla McBride swished a 3 from near the top of the key to keep Notre Dame rolling.

By the time Michaela Mabrey hit back-to-back-to-back 3s, the Irish had a 28-point lead, and the Syracuse 2-3 zone was in tatters.

No. 2 Notre Dame rained 3s on Syracuse early and rolled to a 101-64 victory. The Irish finished with 10 3-pointers and scored a series high against the Orange.

“The first half was great,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “As long as the ball is going in, it’s OK to keep shooting the 3s.”

McGraw said that early barrage of 3s hit the Orange hard.

“It’s deflating; it’s just so de-flating. It’s demoralizing to the defense,” she said. “I mean, they press, we han-dled it. They played zone, we handled it. They just couldn’t get anything going.”

The victory pushed Notre Dame to 23-0, matching the program record for the best start to a season set by the na-tional championship team of 2000-01.

By knocking off Syracuse, McGraw now has 737 career victories, which ties former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow for 11th place on the all-time Division I list.

McGraw accomplished the feat on “Play for Kay” day, which honors the late coach-ing legend by raising funds for awareness, education, support and research in the fight against breast cancer. Yow battled the disease for nearly 20 years during her coaching career, passing away at the age of 66 in 2009.

Notre Dame, alone atop the ACC standings with a 10-0 mark, hits the road Thursday to play Boston College (12-13, 3-8). Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. The Irish whacked the Eagles, 95-53, on Jan. 9 at Purcell Pa-vilion.

Loyd led the Irish with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including two 3s.

“Our players found me when I was open,” Loyd said. “I was trying to be relaxed. I wasn’t trying to force any-thing. I give credit to my teammates for having confi-dence in me.”

McBride scored 18 points, and Natalie Achonwa fin-ished with 14.

Mabrey scored 18 points on six 3-pointers.

Bringing a sellout crowd of 9,149 to its feet with an alley-oop by Achonwa and air-borne shots and reverse la-yups by Loyd, it was the downpour of 3s that crushed the Orange early.

Launching against the 2-3 zone, the Irish hit eight 3s en route to a 61-28 halftime lead. The tally was more trifectas than the Irish hit in 17 of their games this season.

“It seemed like (McBride) and Jewell were just making everything, and then (Mabrey) came in and made a few,” McGraw said. “Eight-for-14 from the 3-point line (in the first half) is tremendous, but then we came out in the second half and went 2-for-12. I thought we should have shot a lot less in the second half. We needed to use the post more in the second half.”

Notre Dame’s scoring ex-plosion in the first half was not only the most points Syracuse had allowed in a half this season, it was more than the Orange allowed in eight of their games.

Notre Dame hit four of its first five shots, including a pair of 3s, and led 14-2. The Irish harassed Syracuse into 1-of-5 shooting and four turn-overs in its first nine posses-sions.

It got worse for the Orange. Notre Dame hit seven of its first nine shots from 3-point range and built a 45-12 that included a 28-4 run.

“We were just finding the gaps,” McBride said. “I think we were playing really well together, making the extra pass ... we were hitting shots. That gave us a lot of energy and intensity. It got the crowd going, which got us going. We just went from there.”

Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman credited Notre Dame for having a balanced attack that demolished his team’s zone.

“People have different ways of attacking (the zone),” Hillsman said. “I think (Notre Dame) did a very good job of using their per-sonnel in the way they attack it. Achonwa at the high post is tough. Braker on the low block is tough, and they have guards that can make shots, and then they bring two shooters (Mabrey and Madi-son Cable) off the bench. They’re just very balanced.”

Notre Dame has now won 46 consecutive regular-season games and 23 con-secutive home games.

SYRACUSE (17-7): Shakeya Leary 4-8 0-0 8, Rachel Coffey 4-9 0-0 12, Isabella Slim 0-0 0-0 0, Brianna Butler 1-7 1-1 3, Brittney Sykes 5-17 4-4 14, Alexis Peter-son 1-2 2-3 4, Tasia Butler 0-1 2-2 2, La’Shay Taft 0-1 0-0 0, Cornelia Fondren 2-4 0-0 4, Taylor Ford 2-8 1-4 6, Phylesia Bullard 0-2 0-0 0, Briana Day 3-7 3-3 9, Bri Day 0-1 2-4 2. Totals 22-67 15-21 64.

NOTRE DAME (23-0): Natalie Achonwa 6-10 2-2 14, Ariel Braker 1-1 1-2 3, Lindsay Allen 0-2 0-0 0, Kayla McBride 7-16 3-3 18, Jewell Loyd 9-11 3-3 23, Whitney Holloway 1-2 2-4 4, Kris-tina Nelson 1-2 0-0 2, Taya Reimer 3-6 1-3 7, Madison Cable 3-8 2-2 9, Michaela Mabrey 6-14 0-0 18, Hannah Huffman 0-1 1-2 1, Markisha Wright 1-2 0-0 2, Dia-mond Thompson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 38-75 15-21 101.

Halftime — Notre Dame 61-28. 3-Point Goals — Syracuse 5-17 (Coffey 4-9, Ford 1-4, Sykes 0-1, B. Butler 0-1, Taft 0-1, Fondren 0-1), Notre Dame 10-26 (Mabrey 6-14, Loyd 2-3, McBride 1-3, Cable 1-3, Allen 0-1, Holloway 0-1, Huffman 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Syra-cuse 39 (Brian. Day 9), Notre Dame 51 (Cable 9). Assists — Syracuse 10 (B. Butler, Leary 3), Notre Dame 24 (Allen, McBride 5). Total Fouls — Syracuse 21, Notre Dame 19. A — 9,149.

CRallo@SBTinfo.com

The Notre Dame bench reacts as Michaela Mabrey puts up a 3-pointer during Sunday's game against Syracuse. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)