Madison Cable brings competitive fire to Notre Dame

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

TAMPA, Fla. – The rest of the women’s basketball world got a glimpse at one of the most competitive players in the game Saturday when Notre Dame was the first of the Women’s Final Four teams to practice on the Amalie Arena hardwood that has been laid over the ice surface used by its usual tenants, the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League.

Madison Cable, usually the first player off the bench for Muffet McGraw’s Irish, grew up outside Pittsburgh in Mt. Lebanon and is a big-time hockey fan of the Penguins and their Hall of Fame center Mario Lemieux. The 5-foot-11 senior winger, known for diving for loose balls, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and hitting a big 3-pointer when needed, is a big-time fan of the Irish hockey team as well.

Saturday Cable brought those competitive fires to the Amalie Arena court and might have needed a two-minute cooling-off period in one of the penalty boxes.

With a small contingent of fans watching Saturday (the Irish did their serious work later Saturday at Tampa Prep), Notre Dame split into two teams for a little competition that included the groups taking shots from one corner, one elbow (where the foul line meets the lane line), the top of the key, the other elbow and the other corner.

Cable and junior Jewell Loyd, probably Notre Dame’s two most competitive players, were on opposite teams, and when the game was done, Loyd’s team won. The outcome did not sit well with Cable, who had a scowl on her face. She took a basketball, threw it at the backcourt and the ball bounced all the way to the other end of the court.

Cable’s teammates and the Irish coaches couldn’t contain their laughter, and she, too, probably left the court with a smile on her face.

A real Jewell

Late in the workout, Loyd was dribbling near midcourt and fired up a jumper.

It hit nothing but net before it hit the floor.

All-Americans

The postseason honors continued for Loyd when the Irish junior, the espnW National Player of the Year, was named to the 10-player Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division I Coaches’ All-America Team. Joining Loyd on the team were three players from Connecticut – junior point guard Moriah Jefferson, senior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and junior forward Breanna Stewart, who received the WBCA’s Wade Trophy as player of the year.

Loyd already has been named to the Associated Press All-America first team along with the United States Basketball Writers Association first team and the espnW first team.

Fittingly, Loyd received her plaque from DePaul head coach Doug Bruno, the chairperson of the Division I All-America selection committee. Bruno has known Loyd from her younger days in Chicago since she attended Bruno’s summer camps, and she refers to him as “Uncle Doug” to this day despite passing on his offer to attend DePaul and deciding to attend Notre Dame.

The others honored by the WBCA with Loyd and the three Huskies as first-team All-Americans were California senior guard Brittany Boyd, Baylor sophomore forward Nina Davis, Iowa senior guard Samantha Logic, South Carolina junior guard Tiffany Mitchell, Duke senior center Elizabeth Williams and Minnesota senior Amanda Zahui B. Notre Dame freshman forward Brianna Turner received honorable mention.

Bruno-ly honest

Bruno, who played for the late Notre Dame alumnus Ray Meyer on DePaul’s men’s basketball team, has a great affinity for Notre Dame and his coaching rival Muffet McGraw and vice versa.

In fact, as the story goes, McGraw’s husband Matt was helping the Blue Demons get settled in on one of their recent visits to the Purcell Pavilion and asked if there was anything Notre Dame could do for him and his team.

“Yeah, stop recruiting Chicago and give me back Jewell Loyd,” Bruno quipped.

Young journalists

Seated at the back of the Notre Dame press conference were members of the NCAA’s Junior Journalism Workshop. One member asked Notre Dame players Loyd and Lindsay Allen if they ever expected to be at the Women’s Final Four, not knowing it’s the second straight Final Four appearance for Allen, the third straight for Loyd and Notre Dame’s fifth in a row and seventh overall.

“Growing up it was always a dream of mine playing in the Final Four and playing on the biggest stage against some of the best players who ever played the game,” Allen said. “Yeah, that was really a goal of mine growing up.”

Loyd agreed. “Yeah, definitely. It’s something you dream about growing up as a kid,” she said. “Just playing under the big lights and playing with great teammates and great coaches, so it’s been awesome.”

Loyd then turned to Allen and whispered, “They’re so cute!”

Turnover

Stewart later received the Associated Press’ Player of the Year and then stole the AP’s thunder by congratulating Florida State head coach Sue Semrau as the coach of the year before it was announced.

“Oops,” Stewart said covering her mouth. “I wasn’t supposed to say that?”

Frese frame

Maryland coach Brenda Frese, whose team lost 87-61 in last season’s Final Four semifinals to Notre Dame and then 92-72 on Dec. 3 in Fort Wayne during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, is well aware of the uphill battle her unheralded team faces against No. 1 Connecticut in Sunday’s second semifinal at 9 p.m.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Frese, who married her husband 10 years ago in nearby Clearwater. “It’s Easter Sunday and we’re looking forward to getting a lot of baskets.”

How’s that for funny, bunny pun-ny, folks.

Dear John

Someone asked Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma if he had any advice for Kentucky men’s coach John Calipari, whose team is trying to complete an undefeated 40-0 season with two victories in the Men’s Final Four.

“Throw the ball to your big guy,” said Auriemma, who has five unbeaten seasons, including a 40-0 run last season, among his nine national titles at UConn. “Which one? Any of the 10. Don’t worry

Notre Dame guard Madison Cable was ready to play Saturday during the team's open workout in Tampa, Fla. (AP File Photo/SUE OGROCKI)