Loyd leads Notre Dame women to ACC title

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Jewell Loyd and the Notre Dame women’s basketball team soared in the second half to sink Duke, 69-53, in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game on Sunday night.

Loyd scored 26 points, 18 in the second half, and Kayla McBride had 25 points to lead the Irish. Loyd was named the ACC Tournament MVP, and she and McBride were named to the All-ACC Tournament first team.

Duke post Elizabeth Williams had 17 points and 16 rebounds. Haley Peters scored 18 points.

“I thought Jewell and Kayla McBride were just unstoppable,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “The second half, Jewell had a stretch where she took over and did so many great things. And Kayla is so dependable all year long, so steady, so consistent. We got some stops, we got the break going, and I thought our transition game really took off in the second half.”

ACC No. 1 seed Notre Dame (32-0) now awaits a certain No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. The tournament bracket will be announced on Monday, March 17. No. 2 seed Duke enters NCAA play with a 27-6 record, with three of the losses coming to Notre Dame. The Irish now lead the all-time series against Duke 9-1.

Notre Dame won the ACC Tournament crown in its first season in the league against the defending ACC champion, Duke. The Irish won their second consecutive tournament title and seventh overall. Notre Dame won the Big East Tournament championship last season.

Loyd, a 5-foot-10 guard, reached the 1,000-point mark with her first basket. She is only the third sophomore in Irish history to reach the 1,000-point mark, joining Beth Morgan Cunningham and Skylar Diggins in accomplishing that feat.

Tied 28-28 at halftime, Duke connected on its first two shots for a 32-28 lead. Loyd then went on an 8-0 spurt to detonate a 21-4 Irish run.

Loyd highlighted the run with an electrifying fastbreak alley-oop to make it 42-34 with 14:40 left in the game. She also had a steal, drive and hoop as she was fouled for a three-point play that gave the Irish a 13-point lead, 49-36, with 12:06 left in the game.

“I think we were able to rebound and run,” Loyd said of her explosive second half. “That’s something we didn’t do in the first half. We’re really good in running the ball.”

“That oop … Lindsay Allen threw it and I was just lucky it went in. It’s just something that’s exciting for the game.”

Loyd delivered the deciding play with 1:45 left in the game with another steal, drive and hoop to give the Irish a 14-point lead, 65-51.

“I was really pleased with the second half,” McGraw said. “I thought we came out of the locker room and had kind of a renewed energy. I thought we played our game. I thought we played a little bit harder. The first half I felt like we weren’t rebounding.”

Notre Dame moved McBride inside in the zone offense in the second half, and the Irish amped up the rebounds to ignite the transition game.

“I thought we were getting a lot of free throw jumper area shots. And she’s just so steady from there,’’ McGraw said. “We wanted her inside. We did that. We put Ace on the wing. We came up and pressured a little bit more, and I thought that was important.

“The second half I thought we did a much better job of really getting out on the break and running and doing the things we do in the transition game. Defensively, I thought we did a little bit more, tried to trap them a little bit more and get some turnovers, and I thought we were able to do that. Generally when we rebounded that was just the biggest key.”

Notre Dame owned a 23-8 edge on Duke in points off of turnovers. The Irish were 6-of-15 shooting 3-pointers, while Duke was 0-of-5.

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said the combination of Loyd and McBride were too much.

“Yeah, it would be hard-pressed to find a better pair,” McCallie said. “I think McBride’s season was player-of-the-year material. I know there’s votes and stuff. But she was fantastic all season long. And to me was very, very consistent and leading her team.

“I think that’s the thing that separates (McBride and Loyd from others). … They’re athletic, very smart, they’re high IQ. They perform every night. They perform every single night. Players of that caliber seem to get driven by their success. And they’re so consistent. I mean, we didn’t want them to get 25 and 26, but if we had held them for 19 and 17, then we’re in the ballpark of what we’re supposed to be doing. But we obviously didn’t get that done.”

DUKE (27-6): Peters 9-12 0-0 18, Williams 7-13 3-6 17, Johnson 3-7 0-1 6, Jackson 1-7 0-2 2, Liston 2-11 0-0 4, Chidom 3-6 0-3 6, Henson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 3-12 53.

NOTRE DAME (32-0): Natalie Achonwa 4-14 0-0 8, Ariel Braker 0-3 1-2 1, Lindsay Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Kayla McBride 10-21 3-4 25, Jewell Loyd 10-16 4-5 26, Taya Reimer 1-4 0-0 2, Michaela Mabrey 2-5 1-2 7, Markisha Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 9-13 69.

Halftime — Tied 28-28. 3-Point Goals — Duke 0-5 (Jackson 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Peters 0-1, Liston 0-2), Notre Dame 6-15 (McBride 2-5, Mabrey 2-5, Loyd 2-5). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Duke 40 (Williams 16), Notre Dame 36 (Achonwa, Loyd 7). Assists — Duke 9 (Johnson 3), Notre Dame 12 (Allen 4). Total Fouls — Duke 16, Notre Dame 12. A — 8,190.

Notre Dame's Kayla McBride is lifted up as players celebrate on the court after beating Duke 69-53 in the championship game of the ACC women's basketball tournament on Sunday, March 9, 2014, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)
Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd celebrates a big run in the second half during the championship game of the ACC women's basketball tournament on Sunday, March 9, 2014, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd (32) takes a shot next to Duke's Haley Peters (33) during the championship game of the ACC women's basketball tournament on Sunday, March 9, 2014, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Kayla McBride (21) sinks a three-pointer during the championship game of the ACC women's basketball tournament on Sunday, March 9, 2014, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN