Off-night from Loyd no problem for Notre Dame women's hoops team

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame’s fourth-ranked women’s basketball team learned another thing about itself Thursday night as the February grind to the finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference continued against Virginia.

When their All-America junior guard Jewell Loyd is having a tough night shooting the basketball, the Irish know they still have enough offensive firepower.

The biggest, of course, is 6-foot-3 Brianna Turner, who recorded the fifth double-double of her maiden ACC season (and sixth overall) with 26 points and 13 rebounds in a 75-54 victory over Virginia before 8,738 fans at the Purcell Pavilion.

Turner, who came into the contest as the nation’s most accurate shooter from the field at 67.6 percent, shot a sizzling 78.5 percent (11 of 14) to more than offset the 4-of-15 effort of Loyd, who at times looked frustrated that her shot wasn’t falling. Loyd did finish with 14 points, two more than Lindsay Allen, as the Irish improved to 22-2 overall and took a half-game lead in the ACC race at 9-1 (Florida State was idle) heading into Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at Boston College.

It was Notre Dame’s eighth straight victory, tying its 8-0 run to start the season, and if you asked her, Loyd would probably say that’s her favorite statistic anyway.

“Jewell is smart enough to know that she can contribute in other ways,” coach Muffet McGraw said of Loyd, who had four assists, three rebounds, one block and just one turnover, and also helped Notre Dame control Virginia’s top scorer, Faith Randolph. She still managed 16 points as the only Cavalier in double figures.

“Jewell wants to make every shot, like most good players do,” McGraw continued. “I think she was frustrated because she missed some easy ones, and that’s very uncharacteristic of her. So I think she’ll probably be in the gym shortly.”

Loyd’s 14 points, however, did get her over 500 points (she’s now at 504) in 24 games, the quickest player ever in Notre Dame women’s basketball history to reach the plateau by two games (Katryna Gaither needed 26 games to score 500-plus points in the 1996-97 season). Randolph and Breyana Mason were charged with slowing down Loyd, who got her final two points at the free-throw line when Virginia’s Lauren Moses fouled out with 4:31 to go.

Loyd sat out the final 3:32 as McGraw emptied her bench.

The Cavaliers were outscored 12-2 in the final 5:44, the two points coming on a pair of free throws by Sarah Imovbioh, who entered the game scoring in double digits (13.6 points per game) and as the ACC’s leading rebounder at 10.8 per game. She also is sixth in the nation in offensive rebounds at just under five per game. But with Turner and Taya Reimer making things tough underneath for her, Imovbioh scored just three points from the charity stripe and had no offensive boards, though she totaled a game-high 16 for the night.

“You’ve got to stop more than one person on Notre Dame’s team,” Virginia coach Joanne Boyle said. “You stop one, and someone else can pick up the slack, which Brianna did tonight. We wanted to try and stop their points in the paint because they score probably 75-80 percent of their points in the paint.”

Notre Dame outscored Virginia 50-18 from the foul line to the base line.

Allen, who had four assists, two steals and six rebounds despite three personals and three turnovers in 29 minutes, got the Irish started with the game’s first two baskets and Notre Dame never trailed. Boyle thought her team was lethargic at the start and Notre Dame eventually moved the lead to 15 (21-6) with 11:11 to go. But Virginia cut the lead twice to five points late before the Irish settled for a 41-31 halftime lead.

In the second half, Virginia hung around, cutting the Irish lead to seven at 49-42 on Sydney Umeri’s three-point play with 15:26 remaining. But Notre Dame outscored Virginia the rest of the way, 26-12.

“I’m happy with where we are,” McGraw said. “We had a game where Jewell was a little bit off and we were still able to score 75 points. I think that is something we need to see more often – that Jewell wasn’t carrying us.”

• NOTRE DAME 75, VIRGINIA 54

At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

VIRGINIA (54): Faith Randolph 7-13 1-1 16, Mikayla Venson 4-11 0-0 9, Breyana Mason 4-13 1-2 9, Lauren Moses 4-7 0-0 8, Sarah Imovbioh 0-3 3-4 3, Aliyah Huland El 0-2 0-0 0, Tiffany Suarez 1-2 0-0 2, Sydney Umeri 3-6 1-1 7, Sarah Beth Barnette 0-2 0-0 0, TOTALS 23-59 6-8 54.

NOTRE DAME (75): Brianna Turner 11-14 4-6 26, Taya Reimer 3-7 3-6 9, Lindsay Allen 5-7 1-2 12, Michaela Mabrey 2-6 0-0 5, Jewell Loyd 4-15 6-8 14, Kathryn Westbeld 2-3 2-2 6, Madison Cable 1-3 0-0 2, Hannah Huffman 0-0 1-2 1, Mychal Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Markisha Wright 0-0 0-0 0, Diamond Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, TOTALS 28-57 17-26 75.

Halftime: Notre Dame 41, Virginia 31.

Shooting: Virginia 23 of 59 for 39.0 percent; Notre Dame 28 of 57 for 49.1 percent. 3-point shooting: Virginia 2 of 11 (Randolph 1-2, Venson 1-5, Mason 0-1, Huland El 0-1, Barnette 0-2) for 18.2 percent; Notre Dame 2 of 8 (Allen 1-1, Mabrey 1-5, Loyd 0-1, Cable 0-1) for 25.0 percent. Rebounds: Virginia 30 (Imovbioh 16, Moses 3, Randolph 3); Notre Dame 42 (Turner 13, Allen 6, Cable 5, Westbeld 4). Assists: Virginia 10 (Imovbioh 3, Mason 3); Notre Dame 17 (Allen 4, Loyd 4, Reimer 3, Westbeld 2). Turnovers: Virginia 14 (Imovbioh 4, Venson 3, Moses 2); Notre Dame 12 (Reimer 4, Allen 3, Westbeld 2). Blocked shots: Virginia 2 (Umeri 2); Notre Dame 4 (Turner 2, Reimer 1, Loyd 1). Steals: Virginia 7 (Randolph 3); Notre Dame 6 (Allen 2). Total fouls (fouled out): Virginia 19 (Moses, 4:31, 2nd); Notre Dame 9 (none).

Officials: Kathleen Lynch, Rod Creech, Jules Galien.

Records: Virginia 15-8, 5-5 ACC; Notre Dame 22-2, 9-1 ACC. A—8,738.

Notre Dame All-America guard Jewell Loyd (center) had a rate off-night on Thursday, but the Irish still handled visiting Virginia, 77-54, at Purcell Pavilion. (SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ)