Loyd, Notre Dame close out Georgia Tech

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

On a night when Notre Dame put the spotlight on its seniors, a sophomore shined the brightest.

Jewell Loyd, a 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, had 27 points and nine rebounds to lead the No. 2-ranked Irish to an 87-72 victory over Georgia Tech in Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball Monday night.

Notre Dame improved to a school-record 25-0. The Irish are 12-0 in the ACC, and play at Wake Forest (14-11, 5-7) Thursday.

The Irish have a two-game lead with four games left in the ACC regular season. Georgia Tech (17-9, 7-6) hosts No. 9 Maryland (20-5, 8-4) on Thursday.

Irish senior Natalie Achonwa had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Kayla McBride had 12 points and a career high eight assists.

Aaliyah Whiteside scored 21 points for Georgia Tech, and Tyaunna Marshall had 19.

Notre Dame struggled early after an emotional senior night ceremony, falling behind 8-2. The Irish used a 13-2 run, with all of the points scored by underclassmen, to pull ahead 19-12.

Georgia Tech shook off an 0-for-12 slump and closed to 24-19, but the Irish went on a 12-5 run to take a 36-24 lead. Loyd highlighted the run with a deep 3-pointer and a fastbreak alley-oop.

Loyd then fueled a 10-2 run early in the second half with a pair of fastbreak hoops that pushed the Irish lead to 51-35 with 16:06 left.

Notre Dame continued a trend of struggling in the opening minutes of Senior Night, causing Irish coach Muffet McGraw to think that a change might be in order.

“I think next year, we’re going to have Senior Night on the first day of classes, Aug. 27,” McGraw joked. “There won’t be a game, but we’ll celebrate the seniors’ last season then. I feel that every year, it’s the same thing with the emotion of the moment.

“I thought we got ourselves together in the second half, but the first half was a little tough. Thanks to Jewell for keeping us in the game. I thought she played very well, almost a double-double.”

Loyd finished 11-of-17, and swished her only two 3-point attempts.

“I knew we were going to get something going later on in the game,” Loyd said. “I didn’t want to force anything. I just wanted to stick to the game plan. Luckily, I made some shots

“I was just coming to the middle and attacking off the press. I was just trying to make open shots.”

“Our point guard, Lindsay Allen, did a good job of throwing it over the press, the same with (Kayla McBride), finding the open gaps,” Loyd said. “Our wings cut through the middle, so that made it easy for them to find us. They were making good passes.”

Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said Loyd’s energy was tough to contain.

“She had a quiet 27,” Joseph said. “She is lethal. She just gets it done. You don’t even know she’s getting it done. The thing I like about her game is how hard she plays. She’s just relentless with her effort on both ends. She makes big shots. She did a great job of getting behind our defense. I thought that was a key for them, to be able to score the way they did. She got behind our defense and was a problem for us.”

Georgia Tech managed only 31 percent shooting, but the Yellow Jackets had a 22-13 advantage in points off of turnovers, and a 26-13 advantage in second-chance points. Georgia Tech had a 48-46 edge in rebounds, including 26-12 on the offensive boards.

“I was really disappointed with our rebounding effort,” McGraw said. “We actually didn’t have a rebounding effort. The rebounding was poor. (Giving up) 26 offensive rebounds is not going to win us a lot of games. They were quick, and they were physical, and we didn’t match it. We didn’t attempt to box out. I thought our rotations were poor. I think we’ve got a lot of work to do rebounding-wise, especially in the post.”

Joseph couldn’t fault her club’s effort.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Joseph said. “I thought we battled until the end. We continue to get better. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. We were able to get some hustle points. To outrebound a team like Notre Dame is a credit to my players and their effort on both ends of the floor.”

GEORGIA TECH (17-9): Roddreka Rogers 2-4 0-0 4, Shayla Bivins 0-3 0-0 0, Kaela Davis 5-16 1-1 15, Tyaunna Marshall 8-24 3-6 19, Sydney Wallace 4-16 0-0 11, Dawnn Maye 0-1 0-0 0, Aaliyah Whiteside 6-16 7-9 21, Katarina Vuckovic 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 26-83 11-16 72.

NOTRE DAME (25-0): Natalie Achonwa 7-11 7-13 21, Ariel Braker 3-5 0-0 6, Lindsay Allen 1-3 2-3 4, Kayla McBride 3-13 6-6 12, Jewell Loyd 11-17 3-4 27, Whitney Holloway 0-0 0-0 0, Kristina Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Taya Reimer 2-2 1-1 5, Madison Cable 1-2 0-0 2, Michaela Mabrey 4-9 1-2 10, Huffman 0-0 0-0 0, Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-62 20-29 87.

Halftime — Notre Dame 36-28. 3-Point Goals — Georgia Tech 9-22 (Davis 4-8, Wallace 3-9, Whiteside 2-4, Vuckovic 0-1), Notre Dame 3-11 (Loyd 2-2, Mabrey 1-6, McBride 0-3). Fouled Out — Davis, Rogers. Rebounds — Georgia Tech 48 (Marshall 11), Notre Dame 46 (Achonwa 10). Assists — Georgia Tech 10 (Marshall 4), Notre Dame 20 (McBride 8). Total Fouls — Georgia Tech 23, Notre Dame 15. A — 8,808.

Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd drives downcourt in front of Georgia Tech's Tyaunna Marshall, left, during Monday's game at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Kayla McBride, right, drives in on Georgia Tech's Roddreka Rogers during the Notre Dame-Georgia Tech women's basketball game on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Kayla McBride, right, and Georgia Tech's Roddreka Rogers collide during the Notre Dame-Georgia Tech women's basketball game on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Natalie Achonwa chases down a ball she stole from Georgia Tech's Sydney Wallace, left, during the Notre Dame-Georgia Tech women's basketball game on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Ariel Braker, right, guards Georgia Tech's Aaliyah Whiteside during the Notre Dame-Georgia Tech women's basketball game on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN