Home crowd has an ND say

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame cashed in on playing an NCAA women’s basketball Sweet 16 game at home.

Feeding off the crowd’s energy, Notre Dame stormed to a 14-0 lead Saturday against Oklahoma State. Natalie Achonwa and Kayla McBride both said that the players felt ignited by the adrenaline from the home fans.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw credited the sellout with having an early impact.

“There was no question when we came out to see the sea of green, to hear the excitement, to feel the electricity, that was a phenomenal atmosphere for a game,” McGraw said. “I thought the roof might come off at times because the crowd was so loud.”

Big trouble

Oklahoma State had trouble, particularly early, dealing with Notre Dame’s transition game. The Irish had a lot of trouble running the transition in a second-round victory against Arizona State, running into the middle, making careless passes.

On Saturday, the Irish spread out the attack. The biggest problem for Oklahoma State was dealing with the Irish bigs on the run.

“When our posts run, it tires the other team out,” Irish guard Jewell Loyd said. “That’s what we do in practice, we run, because coach McGraw loves posts who can run with the guards.”

With the Irish bigs running the court in transition and leaving Oklahoma State’s bigs behind, the Cowgirls were left in the position of leaving shooters like McBride and Loyd open, or having guards defending against driving posts.

“You’d better keep up or else you’re going to be left behind,” Achonwa said of Notre Dame’s philosophy of having its posts run the floor.”

Leaning interest

Oklahoma State’s Brittney Martin was asked if the Cowgirls would have a rooting interest for fellow Big 12 member Baylor in Saturday’s other Sweet 16 game against Kentucky.

Martin hesitated, mulling over Big 12 pride and weighing it against Oklahoma State’s drought of eight consecutive losses to the Bears.

“I can’t say we’re rooting for Baylor, but it’s cool to have another Big 12 school in the Sweet 16 here,” Martin said. “We want to show people that the Big 12 is a tough conference to be in, so … I can’t say I’m rooting for Baylor, but I can say we’re sort of leaning towards Baylor.”

Oklahoma State teammate Tiffany Bias was more to the point.

“It’s love-hate with Baylor,” Bias said.

A look ahead

Notre Dame’s last loss at Purcell Pavilion was a 73-61 setback last season, Dec. 5, 2012. The team that beat the Irish? Baylor, Notre Dame’s opponent on Monday night.

Baylor also beat the Irish in the 2012 national championship game, and is 4-0 all-time against the Irish.

“Certainly, we have that on our minds,” McGraw said of a chance at payback. “I know, when you lose a game in the national championship, you’d like to have a chance to get that team back, and we have played them a few times.”

Irish items

l Notre Dame is in its sixth Elite Eight in program history, and its fourth appearance in as many seasons. The Irish are 5-0 in Elite Eight games.

l Notre Dame blocked a season-high 10 shots against Oklahoma State. The 10 blocks were the second most high by an Irish team in NCAA play. Notre Dame blocked 11 shots in its national championship victory against Purdue in 2001.

l Achonwa’s five blocks is a career high, and two shy of the Notre Dame record for most blocks in an NCAA game. Devereaux Peters (2012) and Ruth Riley (2001) had seven blocks each in an NCAA tournament game.

l Loyd’s double-double (20 points, 12 rebounds) was her sixth of the season.

l Oklahoma State’s Tiffany Bias also had a double-double (17 points, 11 assists), her second of the season.

CRallo@SBTinfo.com Twitter: @rallo NDInsider

Notre Dame's Notre Dame's Kayla McBride, right, competes for the ball with Oklahoma State's Brittany Atkins during the NCAA women's basketball Sweet Sixteen tournament game on Saturday, March 29, 2014, inside the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)