‘Whoosa’ carries the day for Notre Dame women's basketball team

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

TOLEDO, Ohio — If there ever was a “whoosa” game, this was it.

Notre Dame’s women’s basketball players have their own unique language.

In their vocabulary, “whoosa,” a concoction of senior Natalie Achonwa — so it must have some Canadian derivation — is a code word for relaxing; take it easy.

Notre Dame’s 84-67 NCAA Tournament second-round win over Arizona State Monday night was a frustrating process, as painful to watch as it was to play.

Nothing flowed, especially in the first half. Layups that have fallen all year didn’t drop. Shooters couldn’t even get squared up for a 3-point shot, let alone make one.

The Irish, who average 14 turnovers a game, had 22. They committed 22 fouls and their bench was outscored, 34-12.

Jewell Loyd and Kayla McBride are usually “money” from the field. They combined to hit 13 of 31 shots, though they had 41 points between them.

How’d Loyd handle the frustration of 5 of 12 from the field?

“Whoosa,” said Loyd. “It means: Relax, take a deep breath. Whenever we’re frustrated, instead of yelling at somebody, we’ll say, ‘Whoosa.’”

“I don’t know where (‘whoosa’) came from,” said Achonwa. “It’s a very calming word. When you say it, it relaxes your muscles. Our team just kinda caught on to it. It’s really just caught on this year.

“It gives us that laugh and that release we need.”

It’s to the Irish women’s basketball team what “serenity now” was to Kramer on the Seinfeld TV show.

Notre Dame needed “whoosa” in the worst way Monday night. Nothing seemed to work as it usually does, and the Irish still won by 17.

Seinfeld wasn’t lost on Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne. She shook her head when recounting the deficiencies her Sun Devils had during the loss: Outrebounded, 39-31, after leading 17-14 at intermission; shooting 38 percent (21 of 56); 22 turnovers and only five assists.

“We needed to execute better today, take a little better care of the ball,” Thorne said. “We gave them too many offensive rebounds (17); yada, yada, yada, shoot better.”

It certainly was a “yada, yada, yada” sort of game.

It got to the point of sympathy for Taya Reimer. Notre Dame’s young post really got “freshman-ized.” In just six minutes, she committed four fouls, had two turnovers (including dribbling a ball off her leg), and scored five points.

It’s not like that sort of frustration was a game-changer, it was just an example of how painstakingly difficult the game was.

“To her, I say, you’ve just gotta keep playing,” Achonwa said of her advice to Reimer. “Just confidence. She needs to know that I believe in her; I know our whole team and coaching staff all believe in her. We have another game.”

“That’s going to happen,” said Irish post coach Carol Owens. “You just say, ‘Stay in the game; stay in the game.’

“That’s why the last 4-5 minutes she played at the end were so important, to get her back in her rhythm. She’s gotta learn from that. She’s a freshman.”

Nobody was immune Monday night. Even McBride, in the team picture of the best players in the country, missed everything on a 3-point attempt. The rest of the game, the Arizona State band refused to let her forget about it.

“Air ball.” “Air ball.”

“Yeah, I heard it,” McBride said, able to laugh about it post-game. “Every single time (she had the ball) until the last free throws (in the final minutes).”

Just another element in a real yada, yada, yada.

Whoosa.

ALesar@SBTinfo.com

574-235-6318

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw reacts as the Irish give up points during the second round NCAA women's basketball tournament game against Arizona State Monday night at Toledo, Ohio. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)