McBride shakes shooting slump for Notre Dame women

NOTEBOOK

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

TOLEDO, Ohio — Notre Dame women’s basketball assistant coach Beth Morgan Cunningham walked over to guard Kayla McBride during Monday’s halftime warm-ups.

McBride’s face reflected her 2-of-9 shooting that only produced six points in the first half of a second-round NCAA women’s basketball tournament game against Arizona State.

A few words from Cunningham, and a smile flashed across McBride’s face. She then dribbled the ball and launched a deep 3-pointer.

Swish.

McBride took a relaxed attitude into the second half, and took command. She hit six of her last eight shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, and finished with 22 points. McBride scored 16 points in the second half.

“I just went out and joked with her,” Cunningham said. “I said, ‘When was the last time you had five assists in a game, let alone at halftime?’”

McBride finished with nine assists.

Taking most of the ball-handling duties in the first half from freshman point guard Lindsay Allen burdened McBride, who admitted to trying to do too much. The 5-foot-11 senior averages 17.2 points a game, and said she is haunted when she hits a rare shooting slump.

“I don’t like to miss shots, and I don’t want to let my team down,” McBride said. “It’s something I’ve always struggled with.”

That’s when Cunningham stepped in to lighten the moment.

“I could tell she was frustrated,” Cunningham said. “I told her, she was making an impact on the offensive end, but it wasn’t how she typically does it, by knocking down shots.”

Cunningham has the background to understand a shooter’s mentality. She is second all-time in the Irish record books with 2,322 points. Cunningham said that McBride, and all shooters, need to have a short memory. It’s a matter of not press-ing to dig out of a slump, and stay with the practice of working to get good looks, and take good shots.

Thanks to Cunningham, McBride started the second half with a smile, and finished the second half with a smile.

Sweet sellout

Saturday’s Sweet 16 at Notre Dame appears to be a sellout. It’s possible that there could be tickets returned by some of the participating schools, so fans still interested in attending the games should contact the Notre Dame ticket office at http://www.und.com/tickets/nd-tickets.html or by calling 574-631-7356.

No. 1 seed Notre Dame (34-0) plays No. 5 seed Oklahoma State (25-8) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The opener features a rematch between No. 2 seed Baylor (31-4) and No. 3 seed Kentucky (26-8) at noon. Kentucky beat Baylor, 133-130, in four overtimes, on Dec. 6. The regional championship is Monday at 7:30 p.m., with the winner going to the Final Four in Nashville.

“We’re so excited to have a sellout,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “Our fans are great, they traveled so well to Toledo.”

Bias update

Oklahoma State senior guard Tiffany Bias, who leads the Cowgirls in scoring with 13.8 points a game, suffered an ankle injury in Monday’s victory against Purdue to advance to the Notre Dame Regional. Bias, who averages 6.1 assists, left the game at the 14:04 mark of the second half, and returned with 2:45 left.

“I think it will be fine,” Bias told the Associated Press. “Our trainer is great and we’ll do a whole bunch of rehab between now and then.”

Savvy player

Natalie Achonwa’s quickness wasn’t the only reason that she scored 25 points on Arizona State. The Sun Devils couldn’t stop Achonwa, who hit 8-of-10 shots. They fouled her frequently, and she hit 9-of-12 free throws.

“She’s great at reading how defenses guard her,” Irish assistant coach Carol Owens said. “She slips past them when they ball screen, she knows when to take them on the block ... she’s just really savvy that way.”

Curt Rallo: CRallo@SBTinfo.com

Twitter: rallo_NDInsider