March 10, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As the Atlantic Coast Conference season comes to a close, the two-time ACC champion and second-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team continues to add awards to its trophy case.
On Tuesday, the Fighting Irish picked up two major individual honors when junior guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) was named the ACC Player of the Year and freshman forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel) was chosen as the ACC Freshman of the Year, according to a vote of the league’s 15 head coaches announced by the ACC office.
Both Loyd and Turner earned the same awards last week from the ACC’s Blue Ribbon Panel, which consists of designated media members who cover the conference’s 15 institutions, the conference’s 15 head coaches and media relations directors, and other selected national and regional women’s basketball experts. Like the Blue Ribbon Panel, the coaches’ voting took place before the ACC Championship.
“I am truly blessed and grateful to receive this award,” Loyd said. “To be chosen by the other coaches in the ACC, those we face every day of the conference season, it’s humbling and I can’t thank the coaches enough. I share every bit of this award with my family, my teammates, my coaches and our fans — you all help make this possible and push me to be better every single day, both on and off the court.”
“It’s been a honor and a privilege to play in the ACC this year and to be picked for this award, which has been earned before by so many great players, it’s hard to really put it into words,” Turner said. “I’m thankful to the ACC coaches who selected me. The credit for this really goes to my parents, coaches, teammates and the fans, who support our team every day and continue to show why Notre Dame and the ACC are so special.”
“I can’t think of two more deserving people to receive these awards than Jewell and Brianna,” said Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach. “From opening night all the way through the ACC tournament, they have shown consistency and dedication in every game and in every practice. Both of them are focused on doing everything possible to ensure our team’s success, while representing Notre Dame and the ACC in a first-class manner. We are so proud of their accomplishments and are excited to look ahead all of the great things that lie ahead for Jewell and Brianna in the future.”
The complete rundown of conference award recipients can be found on the ACC’s official web site, theacc.com.
Loyd, who was a first-team all-ACC selection by both the Blue Ribbon Panel and conference coaches while earning All-ACC Defensive Team plaudits from the latter group, is one of the leading candidates for every major national player-of-the-year honor, including the Naismith Trophy, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Wade Trophy, John R. Wooden Award (for which she was named to the honor’s Final 15 National Ballot on Monday) and Dawn Staley Award, and she was a unanimous choice as the espnW Midseason Player of the Year.
Loyd was a four-time ACC Player of the Week this season, tying Jacqueline Batteast’s 2004-05 program record for conference player-of-the-week selections in one year (Batteast did so while playing in BIG EAST), while being the first ACC player to pull off that feat since 2011-12, when Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas was a four-time honoree.
Loyd has started all 33 games this season, averaging career highs of 20.5 points and 3.1 assists per game, plus 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game with two double-doubles. She also leads the ACC with 18 20-point games this season (tied for second-most in school history), while her school-record four 30-point games also set the ACC standard.
A consensus preseason first-team All-America pick, Loyd ranks among the top 15 in the ACC in four statistical categories — scoring (1st – also 21st in nation), free-throw percentage (6th – career-best .825), assist/turnover ratio (11th – career-high 1.23) and assists (13th). In conference play, she finished fourth in the ACC in scoring (19.0 ppg.) and free-throw percentage (.829), as well as 10th in assist/turnover ratio (1.16), 11th in assists (3.1 apg.) and 15th in steals (1.6 spg.).
Loyd, who ranks fourth on Notre Dame’s single-season scoring list with 676 points and has scored in double figures in 75 of her last 76 games (32 of 33 this season), has been at her best when the stakes have been highest, averaging 24.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 11 games against Top 25 teams this season. In those 11 contests, she has scored at least 20 points nine times, including three 30-point outings — career-high and school record-tying 41 points at No. 25 DePaul on Dec. 10, 34 points vs. No. 5/6 Tennessee on Jan. 19 at Purcell Pavilion, and 31 points against No. 3 Connecticut on Dec. 6, also at Purcell Pavilion.
On Sunday, Loyd became the second Notre Dame player in program history to earn two conference tournament MVP awards, joining Krissi Davis who received the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League Tournament MVP honors in 1989 and 1991. Loyd averaged 18.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in last weekend’s three-game run to the ACC tournament title, highlighted by a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds in Saturday’s semifinal win over No. 16 Duke, and a game-best 18 points and seven rebounds in Sunday’s victory over No. 7/6 Florida State in the ACC championship game.
Turner joined Loyd on the 2014-15 All-ACC First Team and All-ACC Defensive Team, as well as earning a spot on the All-ACC Freshman Team. Named to the midseason watch lists for the John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy, the Pearland, Texas, native has been one of the nation’s top freshmen all season long, tying a school record with six ACC Freshman of the Week honors (a mark first set by Alicia Ratay in 1999-2000 and duplicated by Batteast in 2001-02, both in the BIG EAST), while also earning two United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Week citations, the first Fighting Irish player ever to be so honored.
She also became the first player in school history and only the sixth in ACC history to earn conference player-of-the-week and freshman-of-the-week accolades on the same day, doing so on Jan. 19 after registering career highs of 29 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks four days earlier in a win at No. 12/10 North Carolina. With that performance, Turner joined Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris as just the second NCAA Division I player since 1999-2000 to post those numbers in a single game (Paris registered 30 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks in an overtime loss to Missouri on March 11, 2008, in the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Kansas City).
Turner has started 29 of the 30 games she has played this season, missing three games in mid-December with a separated shoulder and coming off the bench for a Feb. 26 Senior Night win over Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion. She is averaging 13.8 points per game and leads the team with 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game, plus a .667 field-goal percentage. She also has seven double-doubles (fifth all-time among Notre Dame freshmen) and six 20-point games to her credit this year.
Turner has been a fixture among the national and ACC statistical leaders all season, currently leading the country in field-goal percentage and ranking 28th in blocked shots. Should it hold up, her field-goal percentage would be second-highest in school history and best ever by a freshman (Ruth Riley shot .683 from the field as a sophomore in 1998-99), while Turner’s 77 blocked shots are seventh on the Notre Dame single-season list and second-most by a Fighting Irish freshman (Shari Matvey had 94 blocks in 1979-80).
On the conference level, Turner ranks in the top 20 in the ACC in four categories — field-goal percentage (1st), blocks (4th), rebounding (10th) and scoring (16th).
In addition, Turner’s seven double-doubles rank second among ACC freshmen and 10th among all ACC players, while her six 20-point games are third among ACC rookies and 10th among all ACC players.
During conference play, Turner led the ACC in field-goal percentage (.686) and ranked second in blocks (2.9 bpg.), while also finishing seventh in rebounding (8.6 rpg.) and 16th in scoring (14.4 ppg.).
Like Loyd, Turner has been exceptional when the lights have shone brightest this season. In eight full games against ranked opponents (not counting her injury-shortened four-minute stretch against No. 15/10 Maryland on Dec. 3, plus ensuing missed games against No. 3 Connecticut and No. 25 DePaul), Turner is averaging 14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game with three double-doubles and a .653 field-goal percentage.
In last weekend’s ACC Championship, Turner nearly averaged a double-double, registering 10.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in three Fighting Irish victories. She tallied a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in the quarterfinal win over Miami, then had eight points and game highs of 11 rebounds and three blocks in the semifinal victory over No. 16 Duke before concluding her weekend with 10 points, a game-high eight rebounds and two blocks in Sunday’s title-game win over No. 7/6 Florida State.
By winning the ACC Championship, Notre Dame (31-2, 15-1 ACC) has earned the conference’s automatic berth into the 2015 NCAA Championship, securing the program’s 20th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament and 22nd in program history. The Fighting Irish will learn their first-round opponent, as well as the date, time and site of that game, when the 64-team field for this year’s NCAA Championship is announced at 7 p.m. (ET) March 16 live on ESPN.
The top 16 seeded teams in the NCAA tournament will play host to first- and second-round games March 20-23. At this stage, Notre Dame likely will be selected as a host site for those early-round games, and NCAA tournament tickets currently are on sale only to Fighting Irish women’s basketball season ticket holders through Notre Dame’s Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office (call 574-631-7356 or visit the ticket windows at Gate 9 of Purcell Pavilion weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. ET). Should Notre Dame officially be chosen as a host site when the bracket is released on March 16, NCAA tournament tickets would go on sale to the general public beginning at 8:30 a.m. (ET) March 17.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director