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Game 2 Preview: Loyola Maryland

Natalie Achonwa to be inducted to the Ring of Honor pregame

ACC Tournament:#10 seed Notre Dame
Where:Greensboro, N.C.
Tournament Central:Click Here
First Round:vs. #15 Pitt | 3:30 p.m. | Wednesday, March 4
Watch:RSN Clearance Sheet | Fox Sports Go | Watch ESPN
Second Round:vs. #7 Georgia Tech | 6 p.m. | Thursday, March 5
Watch:RSN Clearance Sheet | Fox Sports Go | Watch ESPN
Quarterfinals:vs. #2 NC State | 6 p.m. | Friday, March 6
Watch:RSN Clearance Sheet | Fox Sports Go | Watch ESPN
Semifinals:TBD | 2:30 p.m. | Saturday, March 7
Finals:TBD | Noon | Sunday, March 8
Live Scoring:StatBroadcast
Listen:PULSE FM 96.9 / 92.1 / 103.1
Social:@NDWBB | Always Fighting, Always Irish


NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Friday evening will not only mark the home opener for the No. 16 Notre Dame women’s basketball team, but also mark a special night for 2014 alumnae Natalie Achonwa. The two-time Olympian and current star of the Indiana Fever will become the sixth women’s basketball inductee to the Ring of Honor, joining Ruth Riley-Hunter, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Niele Ivey, Beth Cunningham and Kayla McBride. The ceremony will take place before the game, shortly after 6 p.m. ET.

After the ceremony, the Fighting Irish (1-0) will tip off against Loyola Maryland (0-0) at 6:30 p.m. The game will stream live on ACCNX. Important to note that the first 1,200 Irish fans will receive a voucher upon entry for a special edition Natalie Achonwa Ring of Honor pint glass. Fans can then redeem said voucher at halftime at gym one for the pint glass. In addition, the women’s basketball team will host a team autograph session after the game.


Donning an Irish uniform from 2010-14, Achonwa-led squads reached four consecutive Final Fours, including three NCAA title games. Achonwa accumulated an impressive 138-15 overall record (second most by a senior class) with a 60-4 mark in conference play, in addition to winning five combined regular season and conference tournament championships.

The Guelph, Ontario, native was a two-time All-American, three-time All-NCAA Regional nod and a two-time All-Conference selection (2013 Big East / 2014 ACC). Achonwa, who captained the Irish her senior year, now ranks 16th on the Irish all-time scoring list, amassing 1,546 points over her storied career.


A program rarity occurred in the season opener at Fordham, when Coach McGraw started freshmen Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples. It marked the first time two freshmen started a season opener for Notre Dame since the 2001-02 season opener in which Teresa Borton and Jacqueline Batteast started. And in that moment back in 2001, it marked the first time in 20 years two freshmen had started.

The rookies stepped up in a major way in the 60-55 season-opening win over Fordham. Sam Brunelle co-led the team in scoring with 14 points, while Anaya Peoples logged 11 points and seven boards. Peoples tallied seven points in the third quarter, then provided critical free throws and an offensive board in the final 10 seconds of the game to ice the win.


Brunelle tied Gilbert in scoring in the season opener with 14 points. The last time a Notre Dame freshman led the squad in scoring in their debut … Brianna Turner in 2015, who shattered the program record for points in an opener with 29 over UMass.


Last season, Gilbert played in six full games, including a breakout Vancouver Showcase, before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Iowa on Nov. 29, 2018. Nearly a year later, Gilbert returned in full force, co-leading the team with 14 points – tying her career high. In fact, Gilbert matched her career highs in rebounds (5), field goals made (5), free throws made (4) and blocks (1).


It’s been a long road back for grad transfer Destinee Walker. Her only full season came her freshman year in 2015-16 at North Carolina, starting in 31-of-32 games played. An injury cut her game total the next year to 21 games, then another injury her junior year resulted in just four games.

Fast forward a year and a new school later and Walker debuted with a 10-point, 10-rebound, double-double – just the second of her career. Walker grinded through 38 minutes of play and matched her career high in rebounds.


With the exit of last year’s starting five, the transfers of Nixon and Patterson, along with Prohaska’s injury, the Irish had a starting five this past Tuesday who have never started in an Irish uniform.


Irish fans can expect immediate on-the-court chemistry between guards Katlyn Gilbert and Anaya Peoples. Gilbert, from the Indianapolis area, and Peoples from Danville, Illinois, have played together every summer since they were seven and six years old, respectively. The duo first played on FBC together and later finished playing with Midwest Elite in Chicago.


With the victory over Fordham, the Irish became the 13th team to reach the 1,000-win milestone. The teams right in front of the Irish are as follows:
No. 12 Maryland – 1,002 wins
No. 11 Western Kentucky – 1,004 wins
No. 10 Green Bay – 1,006 wins


The victory against Fordham also kept an impressive winning streak intact for season openers. It marked the 25th in a row, dating back to Nov. 30, 1994.


Coach McGraw has never shied away from having a challenging schedule. In fact, the Irish have boasted both the No. 1 strength of schedule and No. 1 RPI the past two seasons. This year, despite all the new faces, the scheduling philosophy remains the same.

All-in-all, the Irish face 10 teams ranked inside the preseason AP top-25. The breakdown:

Five Non-Conference – #25 Michigan, #23 Minnesota, #18 DePaul, #17 Michigan St, #5 UConn

Five Conference – #21 Syracuse, #18 Miami, #14 NC State, #12 Florida St, #9 Louisville


For the past eight seasons, the Irish have owned the month of November. The Irish have now won 47 straight contests in the opening month of play and are 50-1 over the past nine years. The lone loss was a 94-81 decision to Baylor in Waco, Texas on Nov. 20, 2011.


A current breakdown of the seven healthy scholarship players on this year’s team:
Freshmen – Brunelle, Peoples
Sophomores – Cosgrove, Gilbert
Senior – Cole
Grads – Sniezek, Walker


Due to the limited roster above, the Irish defense could not suffer any breakdowns in game one in terms of fouls. The result – Fordham had only one trip to the free-throw line and went 1-of-2. Notre Dame’s defense also kept the Rams off the board for the first 6:25 of the second quarter.