Jewell Loyd, Lindsay Allen save Notre Dame women

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – The dynamic backcourt duo of Jewell Loyd and Lindsay Allen once again saved a fourth-ranked Notre Dame women’s basketball team still struggling to find its frontcourt toughness.

Loyd, the junior All-American, scored a game-high 20 points and Allen, the ever improving sophomore guard, added 18, including a half-court buzzer-beater at halftime, as the Irish held off an upset bid by an underrated, non-ranked Florida State team, 74-68, in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams Friday night before a sellout crowd of 9,149 fans at the Purcell Pavilion.

“We’ve got a big target on our backs and we’ve got to get used to it,” said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, whose team won its 37th straight conference game between the Big East and ACC and ran its season record to 13-1 despite trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half. The Irish visit Syracuse Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Notre Dame, which won its 17th straight regular-season ACC game, once again overcame its own youthfulness and physical timidness to take its first lead with 12:46 remaining in the second half on senior reserve Madison Cable’s steal and layup against the 13-2 Seminoles.

“I think Florida State is a great team, a top-15 team,” McGraw said. “I don’t know why they’re not ranked. They’ve really proven – I thought today especially – that they are a very, very good basketball team and that they’re just going to keep getting better.”

McGraw hopes she will be able to say that soon about her own young team, which again needed to be bailed out by Loyd and Allen.

The Irish were outrebounded 38-30, including 16-6 on the offensive boards.

First Allen, who had a career-high 22 points against UCLA last Sunday and is now averaging 16.7 points in Notre Dame’s last four games, gave the Irish some momentum when she swished a two-hander from midcourt as the clock ticked toward 00:00.

“I saw there was 00:05 on the clock,” Allen said. “Kathryn (Westbeld) took the ball out quick and they weren’t pressuring me at all so I knew I’d have a clear shot to the basket.”

The ball hit nothing but net.

“That shot changed the momentum of the game,” McGraw said. “It was huge.”

Florida State coach Sue Semrau agreed. “I thought it was the difference in the game,” she said afterward.

The Irish never trailed after Cable’s basket, though Florida State managed four ties before freshman Brianna Turner put Notre Dame ahead for good at 57-55 with a layup with 5:10 remaining.

Notre Dame edged ahead in the second half thanks to a 61.5-percent shooting effort. The Irish finished at 51.9 percent (27 of 52) and held Florida State to just 40 percent (26 of 65).

Turner, who hit just two free throws in the first half as she tried to find herself physically against the Seminoles, finished with 14 points, five rebounds and, for the third straight game, five blocks. Her running mate at forward, sophomore Taya Reimer, finished with nine points and six rebounds while Cable, who played 17 of the final 20 minutes, had four points, five rebounds, a team-high three steals and a couple of new floor burns from diving after loose balls.

With the Irish clinging to a 63-59 lead approaching two minutes to play, Loyd and Allen gave the Irish breathing room. Allen rebounded a missed shot and then dribbled around before taking a baseline shot. Loyd outleaped a pair of Seminoles for the rebound and put it into the basket as Florida State’s Adut Bulgak fouled her. She made the free throw for a 66-59 lead with 1:58 remaining.

“It was disappointing to have the lead for 26 minutes and come out on the short end,” Semrau said. “Credit Notre Dame. They continued to battle when they got down. They are a championship team and they know about winning, and we’re a young team, with six newcomers, and I was really excited about the way that we were tested tonight.”

Freshman reserve Shakayla Thomas scored a team-high 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting, for Florida State, and it was her physical foul on Turner, her McDonald’s All-American teammate, which gave the Irish an indication it would be a lunch-pail evening. Sophomore reserve guard Leticia Romero, a member of the Spanish National Team who sat out the first semester after transferring from Kansas State, had 15 points and junior wing Morgan Jones added 14.

Florida State’s athleticism was evident from the start as the Seminoles opened the game with an 11-2 run in the first 6:05 of the game. When Romero hit a jumper in the paint to make it 15-6,

McGraw called a timeout with nine minutes gone. At that point, Notre Dame had hit just 2 of 11 shots (18.2 percent), was 0-for-2 at the line, had been outrebounded 15-8, including 9-1 on the offensive end, and had made five turnovers.

More important, perhaps, was the physical play the Seminoles exhibited. Turner, coming off a double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds) and five blocks last Sunday against UCLA, was hammered to the floor at the 14:27 mark by Thomas and then missed both free throws.

“Shakayla is such a strong player,” Semrau said. “That tends to happen.”

McGraw says her young Irish have to expect it in the ACC.

“It’s a physical conference; it’s great basketball,” she said. “Everybody plays hard and there’s a lot on the line. I think every night’s going to be like this.”

• NOTRE DAME 74, FLORIDA STATE 68

At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

FLORIDA STATE (68): Adut Bulgak 1-9 2-2 5, Ivey Slaughter 1-3 4-4 6, Morgan Jones 5-12 2-2 14, Brittany Brown 1-4 0-0 2, Maegan Conwright 3-10 2-2 8, Shakayla Thomas 9-14 0-1 18, Leticia Romero 6-9 0-0 15, Emiah Bingley 0-2 0-0 0, Ama Degbeon 0-2 0-0 0, TOTALS 26-65 10-11 68.

NOTRE DAME (74): Brianna Turner 5-8 4-7 14, Taya Reimer 4-5 1-2 9, Jewell Loyd 6-15 8-9 20, Lindsay Allen 6-11 5-6 18, Michaela Mabrey 1-4 0-0 3, Kathryn Westbeld 3-4 0-0 6, Madison Cable 2-4 0-0 4, Mychal Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Markisha Wright 0-0 0-0 0, TOTALS 27-52 18-24 74.

Halftime: Florida State 29, Notre Dame 28.

Shooting: Florida State 26 of 65 for 40.0 percent; Notre Dame 27 of 52 for 51.9 percent. 3-point shooting: Florida State 6 of 21 (Romero 3-5, Jones 2-5, Bulgak 1-5, Conwright 0-4, Bingley 0-1, Brown 0-1) for 28.6 percent; Notre Dame 2 of 7 (Allen 1-1, Mabrey 1-2, Loyd 0-3, Westbeld 0-1) for 28.6 percent. Rebounds: Florida State 38 (Bulgak 8, Jones 6, Slaughter 4); Notre Dame 30 (Reimer 6, Loyd 6, Turner 5, Cable 5). Assists: Florida State 14 (Jones 3, Conwright 3, Romero 3); Notre Dame 9 (Allen 8). Blocked shots: Florida Satate 1 (Bulgak 1); Notre Dame 7 (Turner 5, Reimer 1, Loyd 1). Steals: Florida State 9 (Jones 3, Conwright 3); Notre Dame 12 (Cable 3, Westbeld 2, Allen 2, Loyd 2). Turnovers: Florida State 17 (Romero 5, Jones 4, Degbeon 3); Notre Dame 14 (Allen 4, Loyd 4, Turner 3).Total fouls (fouled out): Florida State 19 (none); Notre Dame 10 (none).

Officials: Kathleen Lynch, Maj Forsberg, Norma Jones.

Records: Florida State 13-2, Notre Dame 13-1. A—9,149.

Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd scored 20 points in Friday's victory over Florida State. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)