Notebook: Potential Notre Dame foes Baylor, Iowa have top point guards

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two of the nation’s top point guards will be in action Friday evening when No. 2 seed Baylor (32-3) and No. 3 seed Iowa (26-7) meet in the first of two regional semifinals in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Iowa’s 5-foot-9 senior Samantha Logic, who is one of four Hawkeyes scoring in double figures, and Baylor’s 5-foot-8 junior Niya Johnson, who leads the nation with 8.7 assists per game, figure to see a lot of each other when their teams meet to decide who will play the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between top-seed Notre Dame (33-2) and No. 4 seed Stanford (26-9) in Sunday’s 8:30 p.m. championship final.

“She’s a tremendous player who makes everybody around her better,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “She is a triple-double waiting to happen every game.”

Logic comes into the contest averaging 13.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.02. “She’s an unusual point guard because she’s a do-it-all point guard,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “She’s the only woman player ever in NCAA history to score 1,400 points, have 800 rebounds, 800 assists and 200 steals.”

Bluder, though, is impressed by Johnson, who has 540 assists the last two seasons and is averaging 7.2 points, 5.0 rebounds with a 3.79 assist-to-turnover ratio.

“We think we have a pretty good point guard and she’s third in the country in assists,” Bluder said. “(Johnson) leads the country in assists and I think their transition offense is extremely good.”

Baylor also features Big 12 player of the year Nina Davis, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard who is averaging 20.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and shooting 58.6 percent from the field.

“I don’t know how to describe Nina,” Mulkey said. “I can’t tell you (to) watch her good-looking shot because she’s got an ugly shot. I can’t tell you to watch how she blocks out because she doesn’t block out. All I can tell you is if you haven’t seen her play, come to our game tomorrow and when you leave you will go, ‘Wow!’”

Loyd POY possibilities

Already the ESPN W Player of the Year (POY), Loyd was named a finalist for the 2015 Wade Trophy, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding player by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and SHAPE America. Loyd already has been named a finalist for the Naismith Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award.

It’s the second year Loyd has been so honored for the Wade Trophy and she would be the first Irish player to win it. Previously Wade candidates have included Ruth Riley (2001), Skylar Diggins (2013) and Kayla McBride (2014).

Also on the list are Brittany Boyd (California), Nina Davis (Baylor), Reshanda Gray (California), Dearica Hamby (Wake Forest), Brittany Hrynko (DePaul), Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Connecticut), Breanna Stewart (Connecticut), Courtney Williams (South Florida), Elizabeth Williams (Duke) and Amanda Zahui B. (Minnesota).

Travel woes

The Wednesday F2 tornado that moved through south Oklahoma City and the suburb of Moore, not far from the Will Rogers International Airport, affected the arrival of all four teams.

The chartered 737 that carried Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, her staff and team, family members, officials, cheerleaders and the pep band was forced to fly around the 200-long line of severe storms and land at Lawton/Fort Sill Regional Airport, about 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. The party exited the plane when there was some severe weather in the area and went to the terminal where players mingled, played various card games, caught up with their favorite shows on Netflix and also caught up on their studies.

“We were just hanging, you know, we were being kids,” Loyd said. “Everyone was laughing, dancing, we had food delivered, and we were watching the storm as it continued to rain, just the colors of the clouds.”

The food was pizza and senior associate athletics director Jill Bodensteiner picked up the tab. The Irish finally arrived at their hotel in Oklahoma City at 11:15 p.m.

Iowa was eating at a restaurant in Oklahoma City when the storm hit. “We were at dinner actually and the tornado sirens were going off and the roof started on fire at the restaurant,” coach Lisa Bluder related. “Quite a few fire trucks pulled up in front and my daughter said, “Mom, I just saw a fireman run through with a ladder.” That’s when we figured out something was wrong. But they never got us out, and my steak was still medium rare, so it was all OK.”

Baylor was scheduled to fly from Waco, Texas, to Oklahoma City just when the storms hit. “We sat on the runway and then they decided that we had to go back and refuel,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “They took us back to the terminal and we were able to get off the plane. We didn’t get to our hotel until 10 p.m.”

Future games?

With as much as they have in common athletically and academically, surprisingly Notre Dame and Stanford have met just twice before in women’s basketball games. The Cardinal have won both — 97-67 on Dec. 2, 1990 in Stanford, Calif., and 88-76 on Nov. 24, 1991 in South Bend.

“We’ve talked about going west, but we’ve been going to Southern California basically for recruiting,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I really like Tara (Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer). I kind of enjoy being in the NCAA Tournament and playing teams we haven’t played in a while. You know, I don’t think we’ve really tried.”

“Muffet and I were actually talking on the phone before the bracket came out and she’s like we’ve never been in the same bracket together and now here we are,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “But we did play — it was like a way back, home and away, and I know our football teams do and I think it would be a really good thing. She does a fabulous job. They have a great program and I think it would be good thing to get going. I’m saying that before we play them. I might change my mind after.”

Baylor's Niya Johnson (2) talks with head coach Kim Mulkey during the first half of a women's college basketball game against Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)