Notre Dame women's basketball topples Terps

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Brianna Turner emerged from an early-game pileup under the Maryland basket holding her right shoulder.

Coach Muffet McGraw and her Notre Dame women’s basketball players held their collective breath.

As Turner, a 6-foot-3 freshman and already a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Week, was led to the locker room, the Irish regrouped quickly and pulled away from No. 15 Maryland, 92-72, in an ACC/Big Ten Women’s Challenge game Wednesday night before 9,184 fans at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, which served as Notre Dame’s home for the evening.

Next up for Notre Dame, No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches poll and No. 2 in the Associated Press poll, is third-ranked Connecticut on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion at 3:15 p.m. in front of the national cameras of ESPN in the Jimmy V Women’s Classic. The Huskies, Irish fans may remember, ended Notre Dame’s run at an unbeaten season with a 79-58 triumph in last April’s NCAA Championship Game in Nashville, Tenn.

But that, too, can wait as the Irish took a 90-minute bus trip back to South Bend knowing they might have to play without Turner, who will have an MRI done Thursday to determine the extent of the injury.

“Any time someone goes down, the person coming in has to step up their game,” McGraw said. “I thought we circled the wagons well and everyone did a good job.”

Once again, junior All-American Jewell Loyd led the Irish with 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-6 from the 3-point line. She also had eight rebounds, a team-high six assists and two steals. Her starting mates at guard – junior Michaela Mabrey and sophomore Lindsay Allen, scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, as the Irish improved to 8-0 with their 60th straight regular-season victory. Allen, who grew up just minutes from Maryland’s campus in College Park, also had six rebounds as Notre Dame won the battle of the boards, 34-28.

With Turner sidelined, Taya Reimer, Kathryn Westbeld and Markisha Wright made big contributions on the front line against Maryland (6-2). Reimer had a career-high 21 points thanks to 7-of-9 shooting from both the field and free throw line. Wright pulled down eight rebounds and scored nine points. Westbeld, who replaced Turner, finished with nine points, five rebounds and four assists.

“All of us wanted to pick up our games, play hard and get the win for her (Turner),” Reimer said.

Not much displeased McGraw, who watched her team shoot 58 percent from the floor (29-of-50) and assist on 19 of those 29 field goals. The Irish held Maryland under 30 percent from the field in the first half (10-of-34) but the Terrapins finished at 41 percent and played the Irish even, 45-45, in the final 20 minutes.

“I was pleased with the way we came out and executed,” McGraw said. “I was a little disappointed with our defense in the second half.”

The Irish made 17 turnovers, another thing that McGraw and her staff must look at in preparation for the Huskies.

“We put ourselves in too deep a hole in the first half,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “The biggest thing about Notre Dame is they play hard, they play aggressive and they like to go for the knockout punch early.”

After the initial shock of losing Turner, the Irish relied on what they have done all season — they played unselfishly, looking for the open shooter on the offensive end and then helping out at the defensive end.

It resulted in a 47-27 halftime lead.

Notre Dame hit 16-of-27 shots from the floor (59.3 percent in the first half) and 10 of those field goals were the result of assists. Defensively, the Irish forced 13 turnovers and forced the Terps into an 8-of-30 effort from the field to finish the first half.

Loyd led the first-half scoring binge with 14 points, and Reimer and Allen each finished the first half with 10 points.

The unselfishness continued in the second half as the Irish had assists on their first five baskets, including three on a trio of 3-pointers. Mabrey made the last two on assists from Loyd, who had the other trey, and the Irish took a 64-37 lead with 14:14 to play.

Then Loyd came up with perhaps the best individual effort of the evening when she stole a pass, drove to the basket and was fouled by Kristen Confroy while flipping the ball over her back for the field goal. She added the free throw and Notre Dame led 70-37 — its biggest advantage of the night — with 12:50 to go in the second half .

“I just try to stay focused,” Loyd said. “I watch Kobe Bryant a lot and when we practice I try a lot of trick shots. Coach wants me to be tough and strong.”

The last remark drew a smile from McGraw.

“I never get tired of seeing those kind of plays by her,” McGraw said.


At Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, Ind.

MARYLAND (72): Brionna Jones 1-5 2-2 4, Malina Howard 4-6 0-1 8, Laurin Mincy 6-10 8-9 20, Lexie Brown 8-16 0-0 20, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough 0-6 2-2 2, Kristen Confroy 4-5 4-4 14, A’Lexus Harrison 0-4 0-0 0, Tierney Pfirman 1-2 0-0 2, Brene Moseley 0-0 0-0 0, Kiara Leslie 1-7 0-0 2, TOTALS 25-61 16-18 72.

NOTRE DAME (92): Brianna Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Taya Reimer 7-9 7-9 21, Lindsay Allen 3-4 4-4 10, Michaela Mabrey 3-9 2-2 11, Jewell Loyd 8-15 8-9 27, Kathryn Westbeld 3-5 3-4 9, Markisha Wright 3-5 3-4 9, Madison Cable 1-1 0-0 2, Hannah Huffman 1-1 0-0 2, Mychal Johnson 0-1 1-2 1, Whitney Holloway 0-0 0-0 0, Diamond Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, TOTALS 29-50 28-34 92.

Halftime: Notre Dame 47, Maryland 27.

Shooting: Maryland 25 of 61 for 41.0 percent; Notre Dame 29 of 50 for 58.0 percent. 3-pointers: Maryland 6 of 14 for 42.9 percent (Brown 4-9, Confroy 2-2, Walker-Kimbrough 0-2, Leslie 0-1); Notre Dame 6 of 16 for 37.5 percent (Loyd 3-6, Mabrey 3-9, Johnson 0-1). Rebounds: Maryland 28 (Jones 5, Leslie 5, Harrison 4); Notre Dame 34 (Loyd 8, Wright 8, Allen 6, Westbeld 5). Assists: Maryland 7 (Mincy 3, Brown 2); Notre Dame 19 (Loyd 6, Westbeld 4, Mabrey 3, Allen 2). Blocked shots: Maryland 1 (Confroy 1); Notre Dame 3 (Reimer 1, Westbeld 1, Wright 1). Steals: Maryland 11 (Mincy 4, Brown 3); Notre Dame 9 (Cable 2, Huffman 2, Loyd 2). Turnovers: Maryland 17 (Jones 3, Mincy 3); Notre Dame 17 (Loyd 4, Huffman 3, Allen 3). Total fouls (fouled out): Maryland 23 (Howard); Notre Dame 17 (none).

Officials: Denise Brooks, Dennis DeMayo, Joseph Vaszily.

Records: Maryland 6-2, Notre Dame 8-0.

A - 9,184.

The Notre Dame bench, including guard Lindsay Allen celebrate in the second half of a women's NCAA college basketball game against Maryland in Fort Wayne, Ind., Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd, left, shoots over Maryland guard Kristen Confroy in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fort Wayne, Ind., Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)